Council withholds Brazil’s report on failing children’s services

Town Hall reporter KEN LEE on the somewhat partial announcement from Tony Newman’s propaganda department that ‘you’re all doing very well’

On a ‘journey’: Tony Newman

As they wind down before Christmas, Croydon Council’s press office this lunchtime issued the latest “You’re all doing very well!” message from council leader Tony Newman, channelling his inner Young Mr Grace.

The attempt at news management is blatant, as Newman and his Labour administration has tried to put a positive spin on the council’s efforts to dig itself out of the hole of its own creation, with a children’s services department rated as “inadequate” by Ofsted inspectors earlier this year.

But the council refuses to publish the commissioner’s latest report, or the full text of a letter from a junior minister in Whitehall which, they claim, endorses Croydon’s efforts since September to improve their children’s services department.

Social workers working in Croydon say that despite Newman and the council throwing £2million at the department to recruit more staff and bribe those who stay with a £1,500 Christmas “bonus”, they are still having to cope with twice the usual workload of cases, and do so without much in the way of managerial support.

Eleanor Brazil, the government-appointed inspector, was due to file her report to the Department for Education by December 4, nearly three weeks ago. That report has not been made public by the DfE, nor by Croydon Council. The council’s full-time press office (annual cost to the Council Tax-payers of Croydon: £500,000-plus) did not respond to our enquiries for the reasons for this information vacuum.

Eleanor Brazil: recommendations have been accepted. Just no one’s saying what they are

There is a suggestion, gaining currency within the council offices at Fisher’s Folly, that Brazil has recommended that a social work “flying squad” from outside the borough needs to be put in Croydon to provide really effective support for the children’s services department.

Today’s press statement from the council says that a junior minister has agreed the as-yet unpublished recommendations of the commissioner.

The council press release quotes somewhat selectively just one sentence from a letter from Robert Goodwill, the Tory Government’s minister of state for children and families. Goodwill is supposed to have said, “I am encouraged by the commitment the leadership of the council has demonstrated following the inspection and the steps that have been taken to better resource and build capacity in children’s services.”

Asked to publish the rest of the letter from Goodwill, the council press office has not responded.

The Department for Education has told Inside Croydon that it will issue its formal response to the Brazil report in the new year.

So until then, we’ve only got Tony Newman’s word for it…

Newman’s statement is heavily laden with the jargon and empty phrases we’ve come to know and love: Tony’s on a “journey”, and is meeting “challenges”, but there’s no “quick fix”.

Newman has signed off on a statement which has him saying: “We are still at the beginning of our improvement journey and we have a long way to go, but it’s good that the commissioner and the minister feel that we are on the right track and have confidence in our direction.

“It will not be a short journey – the challenges are real and we need to make sure we improve things for the long-term, not just deliver a quick fix.”

Which doesn’t take much reading between the lines to suggest that Croydon’s children’s services department remains a long way short of satisfactory.

It is, though, worth placing on record the rest of Newman’s cheery pre-Christmas commentary, for the purpose of comparison once the DfE issues its formal response.

Newman is supposed to have said, “I’m pleased that such high-level trust has been placed in the council’s ability to turn the service around.” Yep, that’s right, the same council which got itself into this state in the first place…

“I want to thank all of our children’s services staff for their hard work and commitment to help us to tackle the issues – they continue to work in the most challenging of circumstances, making a real difference to the lives of some of our most vulnerable children and families, every day.” And do so in a department which, until a few months ago, was still implementing cuts and staff redundancies.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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