Dispatching the Indicative
Posted on May 27, 2016

I was one of many people who sat down and watched Channel 4's Dispatches last night going undercover in Birmingham's children's services. Whether you were a social worker, foster carer, parent or a general member of the public, there were a lot of people for whom this would be of great interest.

I came into the office today and had a chat with my staff one of whom suggested it did not come across as bad as she thought. You might think "What!", but I know exactly where that came from. Although we are not employed by local authorities, we do work in partnership with them and provide services to them. Through that we have a very good understanding of how things are within many of those teams today. What my staff member meant by that comment, was that what we saw was exactly what we expected to see. We have started to become conditioned to see that nationally the services are crumbling under the weight of government cuts.

Personally I do not work that closely with Birmingham but over the years I have worked very closely with Haringey. I was always of the opinion that whatever anyone said about them, they were effectively 'unlucky' due to the fact that any number of local authorities could have been 'that Haringey' and I truly believe any local authority could be 'that Birmingham'. I am firmly of the belief that had dispatches gone into children's services across the country at the same time, we would not be specifically focussing on Birmingham but focussing on the sector as a whole. High caseloads, not enough staff, turnover of staff, and poor management were indicative issues that come with poor funding. It is fine for central government to devolve their responsibilities to local government, give them a budget and ask them to get on with it but if the funding is not enough then this is precisely what you get, nationally!

I have had more conversations than I care to remember with demoralised local authority staff. These are good people, some very good people, with big hearts and sincere commitment who can't help but be hurt by the failings they see around them. It's about time that central government stepped in and provided ring fenced finance to enable there to be a national improvement in the provision of children's services. Until that happens and until they step up and take responsibility for a situation they have created then the documentary about Birmingham will continue to be a documentary representative of children's services across the country.

Tim McArdle
Co Founder and trustee Ukindo