Monday 23 March 2015

Child Safeguarding - A critical report...and other news.

Although clearly not connected to the ongoing police investigation, Operation Almond, Rhydgors Special school was back in the news today following a critical CSSIW report.
It followed an earlier Estyn report which found that its prospects for improvement were “unsatisfactory”.

With that in mind, it's perhaps worth noting the most recent report from the Wales Audit Office regarding the council's Child Safeguarding procedures which appears on the agenda for the next meeting of the Audit Committee.

You may also remember the public report issued by the Ombudsman in January which found serious failings in the council's duty of care towards a four year old child.

The WAO report describes the procedures as "mostly adequate" - which in local government parlance means 'could do a lot better'.

Anything less than a finding of 'excellence' should give serious cause for concern.

The report has found that there was no clear and defined safeguarding policy, and child safeguarding did not appear on the Corporate Risk Register. It also said that "Members...were unfamiliar with Risk Management as a concept". 

It also found that whilst the council operates Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) which checks the suitability of those working with children, this should be extended to all services which regularly come into contact with children. The inference here is that there is a possibility of holes in the net.

Another significant finding was a lack of safeguarding training with the take-up rate in Carmarthenshire Council well below the Wales average.

Significantly it found that neither the Executive Member for Safeguarding, nor the Chair of Scrutiny for Safeguarding "could report on having received safeguarding training which raises concerns about their ability to effectively deliver their responsibilities" 
The Council also had a much higher than average percentage of people who had never received safeguarding training.

We can only hope things have improved.


Also rearing its ugly head on the Audit Committee agenda is the WAO annual audit of grant management procedures and yet again, for the third (or is it fourth?) year running, many of the same weaknesses have been identified.

Over half the grants put forward for audit were 'qualified' (ie something wrong) and nearly half of the claims had to be amended.

Due to the lack of significant improvement even though less grants were audited this year than last, the work involved has meant an increase in audit fees.

Similar problems have arisen as in previous years (covered every year by this blog) and the WAO have highlighted issues such as poor compliance with procurement rules and, in so many words, a lack of proper paper trails.

We also know that the South West Wales Property Fund grant, administered by Carmarthenshire council has been in the spotlight over the past year.

This arose after concerns were highlighted over 'Meryl's millions' and further concerns were reported to the WAO by the now retired Director of Resources, Roger Jones.
In December the WAO announced it was looking specifically at these grants, or a couple of them anyway.

The matter appears to be slowly progressing and this latest report states that;
"due to concerns identified, we have also issued separate reports on the awarding of two grants under the EUR01 Property Development Fund grant. We await a response from the Council and will summarise our findings in a separate report"

So, there we are, we'll have to wait and see.

Questions and concerns over the council's grant management procedures were swiftly dismissed by the chief executive, Mark James last year who said that once they had a word with the Wales Audit Office, they usually 'backed down'.

Unfortunately, as we know only too well, that arrogant and cavalier attitude is very familiar to anyone and everyone who has criticised the council in some way and is definitely not the best approach, nor mechanism for further scrutiny and improvement...


Lastly, and on a lighter note, the 'Chairman's Diary' often provides a good illustration of that parallel universe inhabited by the pillars of Carmarthenshire Council.

In what only can be described as the ultimate sacrifice, the Mark James budget passed last month included a reduction of 'official cars' from two to one. How they will manage I don't know.

Incidentally, I have to be careful what I say about who is actually in the 'chauffeur driven limo' as, surprisingly, it turned out to be a very touchy subject in the libel case. My argument that such archaic civic luxuries were wasteful and unnecessary, no matter who was being ferried around, fell on deaf ears.

Anyway, booked into the Diary for next Friday is a trip to Haverfordwest to attend the Pembrokeshire County Council Civic Dinner. Whoopee! Cllr Daff Davies, plus consort (presumably Mrs Daff) will be donning the gold plated regalia and cruising west to wine and dine with their Pembrokeshire counterparts.

One wonders if they will compare notes over the vol-au-vents on representing the two basket cases of Wales?

And what will the toast be in that Victorian parallel universe? "Ladies and gentlemen, raise your glasses our glorious chief executives, both past and present"!


towy71 said...

I think you'll find that Have-a-new-vest is west of the the kremlin on the Towy lol

caebrwyn said...

Thank you Towy71, I have clearly lost my corrected.

sian caiach said...

Gold plated? I'm sure the chair's chains are officially described as solid Gold, but my inquiry as to their value is still unanswered. I think we should sell them while the gold price is high but perhaps the lost response to my question suggests that you are right Jacqui, and someone at sometime has already melted them down and replaced them with a tacky cheaper version [and possibly pocketed the difference}? Will try a FOIA !

Anonymous said...

The CCC from my experience as a whistleblower fails to follow the very good policies in place that would, if followed, safeguard children and vulnerable adults. If the whistleblowing policy was followed and the Complaints Officers followed it and investigated disclosures or passed them on to the safeguarding teams, problems would be nipped in the bud.

The complaints officer did start to investigate my complaint/disclosure against safeguarding (POVA) after Linda Rees Jones had advised the complaint against POVA should be investigated. The head of service stopped her sending me a report of that investigation. I was later suspended to avoid the complaint going forward. Before I was dismissed the legal advice was changed to only someone representing a service user could actually make a complaint.

This goes against the statutory social services complaints policy (SSSCP) and the whistleblowing policy (WP). It also goes against the advice of the CSSIW, Older Peoples Commissioner for WALES and the original advice I received from the PSOW (Ombudsman)that if the CCC do not follow the SSSCP then I, a whistleblower, could complain to him. This is also in CCC whistleblowing policy if whistleblower is unhappy with how disclosures were handled.

I did finally complain to the PSOW and he contacted CCC. Months later PSOW decided he could not separate my dismissal from my complaint. After I appealed I was told that as a whistleblower I could not complain to him as I was not representing a service user. The CCC's wrong reasoning is now being adopted by the PSOW.

For all the CCC spin that whistleblowers are encouraged, the above actions show how they and the PSOW can abuse both the SSSCP and the WP to give a whistleblower no avenue for making disclosures of wrongdoing by CCC as a whistleblower never represents a service user; they are witnesses to wrongdoing which may or may not have impacted on an individual service users quality of life. THIS IS WHAT NEEDS TO BE LOOKED INTO UNDER RISK MANAGEMENT BY THE AUDIT DEPARTMENT AND THE AUDIT COMMITTEE. To prevent whistleblowing is a risk management issue.

Jennifer Brown (whistleblower)