Conservative group leader on Sefton Council, Councillor Mike Prendergast, has responded to the latest OFSTED report on Children’s Services in Sefton.
Councillor Prendergast said:
It is hugely disappointing to see that the main headline findings from OFSTED still state that the pace of improvement within the department is too slow and most weaknesses previously identified back in February 2022, remain today.
We are now well over a year since the full OFSTED report found the department to be inadequate and whilst I acknowledge that there have been some areas of improvement, the reality is that in the context of the wider department, these are not enough and are taking far too long to be delivered.
I have no doubt that the frontline staff are working as hard as they can, but they are being let down and paying the price for over a decade of poor management.
At a political level, there still seems to be a failure to recognise the seriousness of the situation and an acknowledgement of the work that needs to be done to improve things and ensure that the most vulnerable children in Sefton are safe and are given the best opportunities in life.
Too much focus is placed on small improvement that have occurred rather than the enormous challenges that remain.
The lack of accountability is astonishing, we still have a situation where the relevant Overview & Scrutiny Committee is chaired and ran by Labour councillors, despite the fact that the situation we now find ourselves in has come about after over a decade of Labour being in power in Sefton.
What message does that send to the people of Sefton.
Yes, more money is going into the department and the department needs to be properly funded, but many years of poor decisions by Labour politicians in Sefton have led us to where we are now. It just isn’t good enough.
I, and I’m sure other opposition members are the same, are more than willing to work with the Labour group on Sefton Council to try and improve things. Indeed, we proposed at the last Council meeting, and were supported by other opposition members, a reduction in Councillor’s allowances in order to fund additional support for care experienced young people, including bursaries for postgraduate education. This was rejected by Labour.
I genuinely hope that the current leadership and management are able to get a grip on the very serious issues that have to be dealt with. We in the Conservative Group have offered to meet with the Labour leadership to discuss matters and we have visited the service to see for ourselves what changes are being implemented.
I genuinely believe that there is a desire to change and improve. However, the pace of improvement needs to drastically increase and there needs to be a wholesale change in culture at a political and management level in order to bring about the change that is so urgently needed.
As a father of two young children I’m acutely aware of the huge responsibility being a parent is and in Sefton we are, right now, failing those children in our care.
We must do better.