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Letter: County Council Child Care Improves, But Blame Still Lies With Westminster

Published on: 17 May, 2021
Updated on: 17 May, 2021

From: Fiona White

Lib Dem county councillor for Guildford West

In response to: Ofsted Praises Changes in SCC Children’s Services But Notes More Work Needed

The latest report from Ofsted on Surrey County Council’s children’s services is encouraging and to see these improvements is good.

But none of us should forget the inspection less than seven years ago revealed the service was ‘Inadequate’, with inspections showing the safeguarding service and SEND also falling short of what was needed in the two following years.

I am very pleased progress has been made. As your report states, the improvement is very much down to the work of the late Dave Hill. That Rachael Wardell is continuing with his plan for the service makes sense and she is right to say changing something working could only slow the necessary changes.

The clearly positive response to the Covid-19 situation is also encouraging, with the single point of access working so well.

But what is very worrying is professionals being over-optimistic, in some cases, about parental capacity to change. Likewise, the comments about the safeguarding issues for children with disabilities are disappointing.

The child’s interests must always be paramount and those should dictate the actions taken to ensure children are always kept safe. The point at which the service as a whole reaches at least a Good rating cannot come quickly enough. Every instance in which we miss that standard means there is a risk children needing help and care will be let down.

We must not heap all the blame on the county council. Central government must also bear some responsibility for the way they have starved local government of the money they need to provide the proper standards of service. Now, every time more money is needed in one area, it has to be taken from elsewhere.

I look forward to the next visit by Ofsted and to hearing Surrey County Council is providing the right level of support and care, with a rating of Good, or even Outstanding.

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