The West Sussex County Council Labour Group’s statement on today’s very serious Ofsted report published this morning on West Sussex County Council’s children and young people’s services:
“This is a dark day for the council. It is both shocking and disappointing how badly West Sussex County Council has been rated by Ofsted.
Never before have I read a more damning inspection report. This simply is unacceptable and indefensible.
There is no doubt in my mind that it is as much to do with the cuts to services forced on this council by the Tory Government’s austerity measures, but this Tory administration must also take its responsibility as they have presided over this calamitous decline in standards.
I previously had my strong concerns about the delays in dealing with issues by overstretched social workers, when time was crucial, and this report bears that out.
I am particularly angry therefore that the Tory majority on the council voted against Labour’s budget proposals to give social workers more help to cut down the heavy administrative burden earlier this year, so that they could concentrate on social work rather than paperwork.
It is important to stress that none of this is the fault of the social workers themselves, they have worked professionally and been dedicated under almost impossible pressures.
The failures are in political leadership and corporate restructuring, both of which are the responsibility of those at the highest level. My first reaction is that resignations of those responsible would be appropriate, my second is that the inadequacies contained in this report need to be addressed with the greatest of urgency and the council should spend whatever is necessary.
Finally I am calling for an investigation to identify those children who have suffered prolonged neglect, including those taken from their families when babies because robust plans were not in place to safeguard their welfare, and those 16 and 17 year olds who were eligible for accommodation when leaving care but were not made aware. These children must be supported to achieve in life having been let down.
The political and corporate leadership have failed these children and young people – they may also be entitled to be compensated.”