THE BANK HOLIDAY press reports about fostering in Tower Hamlets merit a proper investigation say councillors who are part of the People’s Alliance of Tower Hamlets (PATH) Group.
The press allegations follow an Ofsted inspection earlier this year which found fault with the Council’s children’ services – including fostering. The Ofsted report pointed out that “There are widespread and serious failure in the services provided to children who need help and protection in Tower Hamlets. As a result, too many children remain in situations of actual or potential harm for too long. Insufficient scrutiny by the chief executive, the director of children’ services (DCS) and politicians has meant that they did not know about the extent of the failures to protect children until this [Ofsted] inspection.”
This is a particularly bad failure because it finds that not only is the service inadequate, but that the entire leadership of the council failed to pick up that there was a problem. That includes the professional leadership (officers) as well as the mayor and Cabinet. It includes the standard (minimal) committee structure and the scrutiny safety net. That failure was there for at least the first eight months of John Biggs being Mayor and his first Cabinet being in place.
The Ofsted findings mean that all councillors should keep a close eye on children’s services until it is clear that they are back up to an acceptable standard. However, none of these criticisms mean that the one story that has hit the press this week can be taken at face value, as Cllr Rabina Khan, Group Leader of PATH, explains:
“Ofsted has raised serious safeguarding concerns regarding this Administration’s fostering service. However, while there are clearly problems with the service, it is disturbing to see bigots using this story to whip up hatred against immigrants when elements of it don’t ring true – for example, you’re not allowed to foster if you don’t speak English. The council should launch a thorough investigation into this case, and we should all wait for the facts before making any further comment.”
Cllr Abdul Asad, PATH Chair added, “There needs to be a thorough investigation within the council as to who and how a confidential report was leaked to the press from within the Administration. There has been a clear breach of data protection.”