WALTER CRONXITE reports on the increasingly desperate-looking efforts at the council to deal with the crisis in the borough’s children’s servicesCroydon Council has offered all its staff a £500 reward if they can help solve the borough’s social worker recruitment crisis.
An internal council document distributed this week made the cash offer. It said, “Receive up to £500 when you successfully refer an experienced social worker to join us.
“Croydon needs more experienced children’s social workers and we think you can help us find the best candidates.”
Last month, children’s services was given an “inadequate” report following a visit over the summer from a team of Ofsted inspectors. Their report was highly critical of many of the practices of social workers dealing with child protection issues in the borough, and the lack of proper mentoring and guidance for some inexperienced and trainee social workers.
This latest example of throwing money at the problem follows last month’s payment of a £1,500 bonus to staff in the children’s services department, a “reward for failure” made just days after the Ofsted report was published.
Jo Negrini, the £185,000-a-year borough clerk, has refused to answer Inside Croydon’s questions around the bonus payment, or to explain whether there were any conditions attached to the bonus to ensure that recipients remained on the council’s staff at least until December, when a government-appointed commissioner is expected to report on whether Croydon can be trusted to run its own children’s services department.
“They felt they had no alternative but to make the bonus payment,” one senior councillor told Inside Croydon this week.“Given the severity of the Ofsted report, morale in the department is rock-bottom. They really did fear that there could be a mass exodus of the staff that they have.”
Croydon, as an outer London borough, is unable to offer salaries to match those available to social workers doing similar jobs just a few miles away in inner London boroughs such as Lambeth and Southwark.
There has been a long-term problem in recruiting social workers, which many believe has been a contributory factor in the overload of casework, poor management supervision and overall lack of control within children’s services.
The latest payment offer, though, smacks of desperation, as the pressure mounts on Negrini and her choice as executive director for the council’s “People” department, Barbara Peacock.
The council video, below, from April this year, is an object lesson in what are fast emerging to be Peacock’s chief skills, of platitudinous vacuity.
In the interview, Peacock states that her department “has a very strong vision for children”, that they want to be “champions for children”, and she says that they are “just at the start of a journey to make this vision a lived reality”.
According to the Ofsted inspectors, they weren’t even bothering to interview children once they had returned to care or their foster homes after they had gone missing. Where’s the “very strong vision” in that?
According to senior councillors, the video performance is not untypical of Peacock, whom they have found “unconvincing” and “evasive”.
“I’m astonished that she’s still in the job,” one Labour councillor said of Peacock, still angry at the failings of some of the council’s most senior employees.
Intriguingly, councillors are now suggesting that Negrini’s job also could be on the line over her appointment of Peacock and the poor handling of the children’s services crisis.
“The only explanation for them not having gone yet has got to be that Tony…”, Newman, the Labour leader of the council, “might need someone to throw out of the boat in December if the commissioner’s report is in any way unfavourable.
“Because otherwise, he might have to go himself.”
- 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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