Not often I refuse to do Media interviews, but I did so today when invited to comment on the report from the Children’s and Social Care Inspectorate in Wales about Children’s Services at Powys County Council. When the Report was published recently, I did agree to interviews. On balance I think it was an unwise decision. I said that I was not surprised by the critical content of the Report. I also said that I had known there was a problem for at least two years, but was not in a position to comment on any of the issues raised with me by constituents. Had a team meeting in my office this morning, and decided ‘No Interviews’. Also decided to write this blog making public all that I consider appropriate. Crucial that constituents have confidence that what they say to me remains confidential.
Here’s all I’m prepared to say. I was first approached by a constituent over three years ago (not two). Other contacts followed. Despite Children’s Services being a devolved issue, with responsibility vested in the County Council, I decided my case worker should follow up in response. At that stage I had no idea that it would snowball. Over the next 18 months, I wrote 15 letters to a variety of Council officers and councillors. During late 2016, I became increasingly concerned and escalated my concern by arranging a more formal meeting in my office with the Cabinet Member responsible for Children’s Services, outlining some details on a confidential basis. I and my case worker were becoming seriously concerned. The police had been involved, as had an English authority, which we contacted. My impression was that my intervention and the Cabinet Member’s Positive response had “shaken things up”. But after some time, it became clear that the issues had not been resolved. My office remains in contact and more letters have followed, and I continue to have serious concerns about delays. Bearing all this in mind, I don’t think it unreasonable to say that I am not surprised by the content of the CSSIW Report.
While I am not prepared to say any more about the cases I’m involved with, my team have agreed that we would be prepared to allow the head of any inquiry to have sight of my case worker’s file, which has a comprehensive record of every meeting and written contact with the Council. I would also be prepared to share sight of the case notes with the new Chair of Powys County Council, who has handled the response to the Report very well. For the first time in years, I have confidence that the Council’s Leader and Cabinet are taking the concerns that I (and perhaps others) have had for a long time.
And that’s about it. That’s all I’m making public. I don’t know what instigated the CSSIW investigation. It may that my agitation may have had some influence. I would be pleased if it had. I just hope, for the sake of children at risk, that steps are put in place to carry out Children’s Services properly.