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Written Statement - Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council: Inspection of children's social services

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Gwenda Thomas, Deputy Minister for Children and  Social Services

Today the Care and Social Services Inspectorate for Wales (CSSIW) has published a report about Children’s Social Services in Neath Port Talbot. This is the third such report in two years following on from concerns first identified in 2010.  

Today’s report identifies the significant challenges that remain in the authority and the Chief Inspector has identified grounds for serious concern.

As a result the Chief Inspector has invoked the use of the Serious Concern Protocol in the authority in order to secure the overall corporate commitment to the improvements needed.

This is a very serious matter.  However, I want to emphasise that the action being taken by the Chief Inspector is designed to act as a driver for improvement and to enable the authority to support their staff in achieving the best outcomes for children and their families. Its purpose is to focus on improvement priorities, carry out regular monitoring of progress in achieving these and to provide constructive challenge through this process.

I am not prepared for services to children to fall below acceptable standards.  I have met with the Leader and Chief Executive of the authority and made this clear.  I have set out my expectations that they will take immediate action to tackle the issues identified by the Chief Inspector and that they will fully co-operate with her in delivering the improvement required.  

I want to make clear my support for the front line staff who, as the report highlights, are working very hard to support children and their families. It is essential that the authority provides them with the direction and support they need to do their job.

In our meeting, the Leader and Chief Executive gave me their assurance that they will drive forward the improvements necessary.  They indicated their willingness to work with the Chief Inspector to secure those improvements.  

This is however just the beginning of the journey.  The authority will need to be steely in their determination and focussed in their actions.  The current position cannot continue.

The Chief Inspector has received an interim improvement plan from the authority and has set out arrangements to monitor progress in delivering the improvement priorities on a quarterly basis.   She will keep me updated on progress and there will be a further inspection in November 2013.  

I expect the significant improvements that are needed to be secured swiftly and with real commitment.