Council’s promises to children in care hampered by social worker “resistance”

Councillor James Joyce said the committee would write to all social care staff stressing the importa

Councillor James Joyce said the committee would write to all social care staff stressing the importance of the promise. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2012

An effort to give every child in Norfolk County Council's care a promise setting out their legal rights has been hampered by resistance from some of the authority's social workers.

Councillors at yesterday's Children's Services Committee said they were 'disturbed' and 'shocked' by the opposition from some staff members, which has delayed its dissemination.

The promise was launched six months ago, and the committee heard it is now being distributed to children, through normal visits by their social workers.

As well as setting out their statutory rights, the two-page document - one for children aged up to 15, and another for young people aged 16 or above - outlines what looked after children can expect from the council, and tells them what they should do if the council is not keeping its promises.

Commitments made to children include:

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Councillor Tom Garrod said: 'I cannot say how disappointed I am by the resistance.'

The report said: 'The key issue has been that some practitioners disagreed with the content, they thought it was too aspirational and that it 'set them up to fail'.'

Councillors heard some of the concerns were about the ability of the council to live up to its promises, given its current structures.

The council's services for looked after children have been under close scrutiny since an Ofsted inspection in July 2013 gave it the worst rating, 'inadequate', across the board.

Sheila Lock, interim director of children's services, said her message was that promise 'is not icing on the cake. This is the cake, folks. That is what we are saying to people very directly.'

She said she would keep 'batting away at it', and added: 'The vast majority of our staff really embrace this. They really want to embed this in their day-to-day practice.'

At the start of this month, 1060 children in Norfolk were in care, with the council as their corporate parent.

James Joyce, chairman of the committee, said: 'I feel that we as a committee should write to all our staff to say how important this is. I think we should write to our staff and put it in writing that this is what we are about, so there is no doubt.

'This is what we expect as corporate parents. This is the minimum.'

The committee unanimously agreed to write to all of the council's social care staff, stressing the priority it placed on the promise to looked after children.

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