Another Labour council is facing accusations of negligence as information emerges of hundreds of vulnerable children being ignored by social workers.
Leicester City Council has fired its assistant mayor for children and young people, along with a senior officer, as details reveal that the authority failed to allocate social workers to children flagged as needing assistance, leaving them at risk of harm, the Leicester Mercury reports.
The City Council is composed of 50 Labour Councillors, 1 Conservative Councillor, 1 Liberal Democrat Councillor and 2 Leicester Independent Councillors Against Cuts. Following the election of Sir Peter Soulsby as mayor, fellow Labour councillor Vi Dempster was appointed one of the assistant mayors. Both she and Elaine McHale, the council’s interim director of children’s services, have been removed from their posts with immediate effect.
The pair were fired following a draft report of an Ofsted inspection of its social services department which took place in January, which is due to be published on March 20.
It is set to explain how a review of front-line social workers carried out last summer led to 30 of them quitting their posts and how in a period of May to October, a “few hundred” vulnerable children who needed a social worker did not have one appointed quickly enough.
According to council sources, the mayor claims that he was unaware that such a large number of front line workers had quit.
At one point, it says, 291 children in need of a social worker did not have one allocated.
The mayor has tried to dodge blame by saying the extent of the problem had been hidden from him and other senior officials, but this has been received sceptically particularly as he has been accused of being a ‘dictatorial’ leader by some councillors.
Sir Peter, whose daughter Elly is also a councillor and serves on the Adult Social Care Scrutiny Commission as well as holding her council surgeries in a local Sure Start centre, instead said inadequate leadership and the “botched” organisational review of front line social workers was at fault.
The news has lead to the City Council’s only Tory representative, Cllr Ross Grant, calling for Sir Peter to step down and not re-stand as Labour’s candidate in May.
“As the elected Mayor, he was happy to marginalise councillors and claim he needs more powers”,” Cllr Grant said, adding “His attention has always been focused on a limited number of areas.”
“Vulnerable children were left at risk, and that is totally inexcusable,” he said. “By failing to give them social workers as quickly as needed, they have been let down and left at risk of harm.
“What shocked us is the speed at which the social service function fell apart and the lack or recognition of what happened.”
Andy Keeling, the council’s chief operating officer, said it was “very unlikely” any children suffered physical or sexual abuse as a result of not having a social worker but they could not rule it out.