How Effective Scrutiny Made a Difference for Vulnerable Children

Tuesday was a really important day for Swansea Child and Family Servcies as the Welsh Assembly Government decided to withdraw its Intervention Board after inspectors identified real improvements.

First and foremost this is good news for vulnerable children and a story about the hard work of many dedicated people in social services in Swansea but there is also a story here about how effective scrutiny can make a difference.

I have blogged before about the pioneering ways in which the Child and Family Services Overview & Scrutiny Board have been working and their commitment to this area of work. 

The work of the Board has now also been singled out for special praise both by the CSSIW, who published their ‘reality check’ on Tuesday, and by the Deputy Minister and other Assembly Members as part for the announcement and debate about the lifting of the Inetreventon Board.

The CSSIW report says:

There are sound accountability arrangements in place. The Children and Family Services Overview and Scrutiny Board provides a well informed and sound outcomes-based approach to its work. The work of task and finish groups, set up by the Board, has enabled potentially contentious but essential service change and improvement needs to be thoroughly reviewed and taken forward by the authority. An example of this was the sensitive handling of the closure of two of the authority’s children’s homes. Political and corporate support, scrutiny and accountability arrangements are essential if sustained improvement across children’s services is to be delivered in the coming years.

The Deputy Minister said:

I want to mention specifically the excellent cross-party work that has been undertaken by the child and family overview and scrutiny board, made up of Councillors Mark Child, Paxton Hood-Williams and Nick Tregoning. The fact that members of all parties have been able to put politics to one side in the best interests of the children of Swansea is to be applauded. The role of elected members as corporate parents is of central importance and must be given the highest priority. Only with true partnership can that priority be achieved. I therefore welcome the cross-party consensus that has been established in Swansea. I believe that there are lessons that we and other authorities could learn from the way in which parties have pulled together to provide effective political stewardship.

Of course the Board do not see this as ‘job done’.  They will continue to work with the Cabinet Member to support further improvement in this service area.  As Councillor Mark Child, Chair of the Board says:

I am pleased that scrutiny has been highlighted as one of the ways that we have managed to gain improvements and I look forward to continuing this work to help bring further improvements.

Councillor Paxton Hood Williams, Vice Chair has a similar point that seems seems like a good one to end on:

There is still a long journey to travel but perhaps we have now reached the end of the beginning on that journey

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