PLANS are being made to set up a dedicated Wirral Council scrutiny group tasked with ensuring vulnerable children in the care of the local authority are safe from harm.

The move is part of steps being taken to address serious failings in child safeguarding uncovered during an inspection by Ofsted.

The national watchdog found children's services in the borough were "inadequate" - its lowest possible rating.

The shake-up follows a decision taken a year ago to merge child safeguarding with adult social care under a single "People Committee."

Opposition councillors at the time had criticised the merger as a mistake.

Tory group councillor Paul Hayes told the Globe today: “The need to break up the so-called ‘People Committee’ has been obvious almost from the day it was created."

But a council representative insisted the change should be viewed as an "expansion" and not a U-turn.

The spokesman said: “Services for vulnerable adults and for children are the biggest and most complex areas of council business.

“The council is working towards a major programme of integration with the NHS to improve adult social care and support and a detailed improvement plan is in place to support children’s services following last year’s Ofsted inspection.

“This work needs extensive oversight and support and members need to have the time and capacity to provide it.

"This is why it is being proposed the current ‘People’ overview and scrutiny committee is expanded, allowing for the creation of a dedicated committee to scrutinise, oversee and support children’s services and a further committee to provide the same support to adult social care."

Councillor Hayes is unimpressed: "Many people – opposition councillors, governors and carers – said that trying to combine the work of children’s services and adult social services would be a mistake.

"Sadly, it has proved to be.

“However rearranging the deck chairs cannot be used as a way of avoiding holding the cabinet member, and senior directors, accountable for the way in which Ofsted says the town hall has failed children in the borough.

“We also need to see the recommendation from the Local Government Association that such committees are chaired by a different party from the administration."

The proposal will be considered at a meeting of the standards and constitutional oversight committee and if agreed, will be implemented in the new municipal year starting in May.


Last September Ofsted dropped a bombshell on Wirral Council when it found vulnerable youngsters were being subjected to serious and wide-spread failings, leaving them facing ever-increasing risks.

Its report said senior managers and political leaders had not provided effective and stable leadership for the service over the last three years.

When youngsters leave the care system there was sometimes no record kept of where they have gone - or what has become of them.

Since then a multi-agency Improvement Board has been formed tasked with turning around child safeguarding.

It is chaired by Eleanor Brazil, commissioner for children's social care and advisor at the Department for Education.

Government troubleshooter Ms Brazil was brought in to Haringey council following the killing of Peter Connelly - also known as Baby P - after social workers missed signs of abuse.

The Government issued a formal "Improvement Notice" to Wirral Council in the wake of the Ofsted inspection.

It warned that unless significant steps are taken secretary of state for education Justine Greening will use her statutory powers to make an "intervention."

The Wirral authority has now invested £10m into the service and launched a major recruitment drive for more social workers and specialist staff.