Wigan children’s services are let down by "underfunding and staff shortages", council claims after poor Ofsted report

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Children’s services at Wigan Council are under “huge pressures” due to “underfunding and staffing shortages”, bosses say.

The claims have been made following an Ofsted inspection stating the authority’s children services “required improvement”.

Inspectors highlighted response to domestic abuse concerns being "not sufficiently robust” and child-protection plans not being specific enough, following their visit in May.

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The report, which was published in July, also suggested that assessments of the “immediate risk to harm” for children was “not as quick as theycould be”.

Coun David Molyneux. Leader of Wigan CouncilCoun David Molyneux. Leader of Wigan Council
Coun David Molyneux. Leader of Wigan Council

However it did go on to say that it was mostly recognised well and responded to promptly.

“This means that some children are not protected as quickly as they could be, and, in a small number of cases, social workers complete visits and develop safety plans prior to a multi-agency discussion to agree next steps,” the report said.

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“Senior leaders have been working closely with the police and these issues are starting to be addressed.”

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Wigan Town HallWigan Town Hall
Wigan Town Hall

The council has since said that it wants to see more backing from central government for what they deem to be an “underfunded” sector.

Leader Coun David Molyneux said there is a national shortage of social workers and an increase in private providers ramping up costs.

He added: “It has been clear for a number of years that the level of underfunding for social care services – across both children and adults – is placing huge pressure on local authorities in the face of soaring demand.

“Issues caused by a lack of investment in social work training and development leading to a national shortage of social workers, along with private providers driving up placement costs, must be resolved urgently. We will continue to add our voice to calls for fairer funding so that councils can provide effective services for children and young people.”

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Children’s Services director for Wigan Council, Colette Dutton, said strategies are in place to deal with matters raised by Ofsted.

“We are pleased that inspectors have emphasised the progress and improvements made in recent years, despite the pandemic and subsequent increased demand for services,” she said. “As the report states; ‘there is a clear focus and determination to make the necessary improvements for children’ and ‘stronger foundations… from which improvement activity can be implemented’ are in place.”

“It has also been highlighted that the service has benefitted from significant investment and continues to have ‘strong corporate and political support’. We know we have more to do and inspectors recognised that these further improvements are in areas that we are already aware of through our own performance analysis and strong quality assurance processes.

“We are confident that our plans will help us to provide the best services for our children and families. It is also really pleasing that Ofsted has acknowledged that social workers are positive about working in Wigan borough and told inspectors their managers are visible and supportive and they like the culture and the model of practice.

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“The challenges facing children’s services across the country are well documented and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our workforce who have shown admirable commitment and dedication to working with our most vulnerable children through what has been a really difficult few years through the pandemic.”