07:07 Tuesday 12th June 2012
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
ANDY GALL: It was revealed at a scrutiny committee meeting last night the full extent of the problems faced by Peterborough Children’s Services. Nearly 100 complaints were made last year, and 677 referrals were not dealt with within the ten days target time, between April 2011 and 2012. The latest report on Peterborough’s troubled Children’s Services Department was discussed by councillors last night. The report also highlighted that Children’s Services was in much better shape now, and had improved dramatically. Malcolm Newsam is the Head of Children’s Services at Peterborough City Council, and he told me that they are happy with the progress being made. (TAPE)
MALCOLM NEWSAM: We’re very pleased with the pace of progress we’ve achieved in the last few months. Back in December we launched phase one of the improvement programme. We set ourselves six months to achieve that. And the report that went to scrutiny last night actually identified that we’d completed the vast majority of that programme ahead of schedule. This puts Peterborough Children’s Services in a much much better place than it was six months ago.
ANDY GALL: Malcom you must appreciate though that we need to focus a little bit more on this. Because whilst we recognise the improvements, Ok, just under 100 complaints last year, two thirds of which were upheld. So why so high, and how do you get that down?
MALCOLM NEWSAM: Well we will be getting those down. The complaints report is based on the last calendar year. And we know, right through the last year, performance in Children’s Services was poor. Social workers were struggling, because they were under-staffed, and under-resourced and under-managed. And they were struggling to get the basics right. What we explained to committee last night is that we’ve actually now got those basics in place, and social workers are being allowed to do a decent job. So you will see over the next twelve month period a dramatic improvement, not only in complaints, but the high quality of work that social workers are providing to families and children.
ANDY GALL: Well we know that some of the delays for these being addressed were due to staff shortages …
MALCOLM NEWSAM: That’s right. Yes.
ANDY GALL: .. extra pressures. But of those 98 complaints, four were through a breach of confidentiality, and twenty two due to staff attitude and conduct. How can you explain that?
MALCOLM NEWSAM: Well again you’re talking about what happened last year, not this year.
ANDY GALL: Well we do have to look at last year though, because that’s prescient, isn’t it, with regard to Tyler Whelan’s death. And some of these incredible mistakes that have been made caused the most devastating effect
MALCOLM NEWSAM: Andy, Andy Andy, if I can answer your question. The complaints report is based on complaints last year, and what I was going on to say is it’s well documented, and I’ve been on your morning programme twice, it’s well documented, I’ve been frank about this, is that the service was in chaos. The social workers were under-resourced, under-staffed, they had insufficient managers to help them do their job. And the complaints came from that. And those examples you give are a very good example of social workers really struggling to get the basics right. What this report says is that now, and we’re in June 2012, Peterborough is in a significantly better place.
ANDY GALL: You must appreciate though Malcolm that it’s difficult for us to congratulate you for what you’ve put into place now, having known what devastating effects there were to the lack of aspects that weren’t in place previously. So it is difficult isn’t it now to say Ok, well done, but look at the problems you’ve caused. Look at the heartache you’ve caused.
MALCOLM NEWSAM: Ok. Let me answer that in two points Andy. In no way am I coming on to your programme to be congratulated. What I’m doing is being accountable to your listeners to the progress that we’re making. And that’s why we took the public report to committee yesterday, to explain where we’d got to. Now we have made huge progress. We know that things went wrong last year, ands that’s why the whole team, this is a new team of senior managers, are putting it right. And we’re putting it right as quickly as we can. And to be honest with you Andy, we are ahead of where we would have expected to be. Of that I am proud, but to go on, I am absolutely clear, we’ve still got some way to go. We cannot fix a service that has struggled, to be honest with you, not just last year, but for ten, fifteen years. We can’t fix a service in six months. This is a long-term project. And what we launched last night was phase two of the improvement programme, which is all about putting in sustainable long-term improvement, and a real focus on high quality services for children and families. And that’s what we weren’t doing last year. Now we are beginning to do that this year. But we do know we’ve got some way still to go.
ANDY GALL: So one of the interviews that caused a lot of uproar was the children’s poverty strategy. Now I understand work is underway to complete that strategy. How has that gone, and what will it consist of?
MALCOLM NEWSAM: Well I do know that there was a lot of concerns about that strategy. To be fair, the draft went to the last scrutiny committee. We’ve brought an update on that, and we’re beginning to make very good progress. Poverty is all about the things that we do on a day-to-day basis in Children’s Services. It’s bout meeting the health care needs, the educational attainment and the life-expectancy, and the choices and opportunities that children in Peterborough have. And we are beginning to make good progress. The issue for me, and I’m sure you and your listeners would recognise this, the issue is it’s important to have a strategy. It’s important to have an action plan. But what’s most important is that the Council is focused and prioritising the needs of children who are living in poverty. And that’s absolutely what we are doing, and that’s what the committee heard last night. (LIVE)
ANDY GALL: That’s Malcolm Newsam, Head of Children’s Services at Peterborough City Council.