Croydon Council’s chief executive, Jo Negrini, last week rubber-stamped a £1,500 per person bonus payment to social workers, personal advisers and line managers in the children’s services department – less than two weeks after that department had been issued with a damning “inadequate” report by Ofsted inspectors.
Other hard-working council staff, who have not received the bonus, have described it as a “great slap in the face”.
The council’s children’s services department undertakes a range of safeguarding roles for children, oversees adoption and fostering, and supervises hundreds of unaccompanied children who arrive in the borough seeking asylum.
But the 39-page Ofsted inspectors’ report revealed “widespread and serious” failures leaving youngsters at risk of domestic harm. The report blamed weak management for failing to ensure social workers followed protocols for missing children and those at risk of sexual abuse.
The report refers repeatedly to a lack of support for front-line social workers, a high turnover rate of staff and the council’s struggle to retain its social workers.
Negrini’s first response to these criticisms appears to be to throw money at the problem.
Hard-pressed staff in other departments working in Fisher’s Folly, the council offices, were demoralised last Wednesday when they had sight of an email from £185,000-plus CEO Negrini advising of the special treatment for some of their colleagues.
Barbara Peacock, the executive director appointed by Negrini last year to head the council’s “People” division, issued a further clarifying email on Friday to explain that there will be no other similar bonuses to other staff, since any such payments would lead to cuts in other service areas.
“Marvellous how we reward ‘inadequate’ with a retention bonus and a morale boost,” one council worker told Inside Croydon. “It’s a great slap in the face to the other council workers who work with children and families. They were not deemed inadequate, so obviously are not special enough for a bonus.”
Negrini has made no public statements on the state of Croydon’s children’s services since the Ofsted inspectors’ report was published two weeks ago today.
But last Wednesday, the chief executive issued an internal email which stated: “In terms of what we can do straight away we are putting in place a payment of £1,500 to our contracted children social workers, personal advisers and first line managers. Regarding agency staff the money (£1,500) is an additional incentive to join the workforce.”
Councillors and other Town Hall figures are unimpressed. “It’s hard to see how this can be portrayed as anything other than a reward for failure,” one Katherine Street source said today.
“The timing, right after such a critical Ofsted report, is appalling. And one-off payments like this are no guarantee of retaining staff, and do nothing for recruitment. It has all the hallmarks of council senior management devoid of ideas and panicking in a crisis.”
The government has appointed Eleanor Brazil – who worked with Haringey council following the Baby P scandal – to oversee children’s services in the borough for three months.
There is to be an emergency meeting of the full council at the Town Hall tonight to debate the findings of the Ofsted report.
Asked by Inside Croydon to deny whether she had approved the £1,500 bonus, Negrini did not bother to respond before publication. Tony Newman, the council leader, also declined the opportunity to comment on the conduct of the borough’s most senior employee and the use of public money for this “reward for failure”.
- Damning verdict on Croydon’s ‘inadequate’ children’s services
- Commissioner appointed to oversee children’s services
- Negrini tells staff: ‘There are some things that we don’t do well’
- Two key figures leave council over Ofsted inspectors’ report
- Bromley Council leader forced to resign over Ofsted report
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