THE latest OFSTED report into Surrey County Council’s looked-after children’s services is a damning indictment of poor leadership and an inability to look after the most vulnerable in our county. Worse still, children who are most in need of our help “are being left exposed to continuing harm for long periods of time before decisive protective actions are taken”. This is completely unacceptable.
What compounds this terrible incompetence is the fact that the council failed to act after a similarly poor report following an inspection in 2014, with the inspector commenting: “senior leaders and elected members in Surrey have been far too slow to accept and act on the findings and recommendations of the 2014 inspection, and to respond with the required urgency to the findings of several subsequent monitoring visits”.
Make no mistake – those responsible for inaction on this vitally important area of council responsibility need to fall on their swords, and quickly. It is already past time for a new leadership team in County Hall – at both councilor and offer level – and one that can act decisively and quickly. The people of Surrey deserve a full explanation for why our children in care continue to be let down, what measures are being undertaken to bring services up to standard and a timeframe for how long the current political and official leadership are to remain in place.
There are undoubtedly a number of reasons for why Surrey has allowed this to happen, not least of which are the unprecedented cuts by the Government to public services and local authorities every year since 2010 – in this respect, the leadership at Surrey County Council now reap what their Westminster colleagues have sown.
However, that does not excuse the council’s tardiness in dealing with the findings from 2014and leaving hundreds of vulnerable children “exposed to continuing harm” for the past three years. That is the most serious charge faced by Surrey, and it is one for which those responsible must pay in order to begin putting things right.
Cllr James Walsh
Guildford Borough Council