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Neath Port Talbot Council and Peter Black AM clash over children's social services loan 'chaos'

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: January 08, 2013

By Paul Lewis

Peter Black

Peter Black

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AN Assembly Member has been accused of scaremongering after he went on the attack over children's social services in Neath Port Talbot.

Welsh Liberal Democrats regional AM Peter Black has made a series of claims arising from the authority's £375,000 "invest to save" loan from the Welsh Government to improve children's services.

The Swansea-based AM reckoned those services were later been made the subject of special measures because they were no longer fit for purpose.

However, Neath Port Talbot has responded by accusing the AM of being a scaremongerer who needed to get his facts straight.

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Mr Black's remarks follow the well-publicised findings of a Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) inspection in November last year.

The CSSIW invoked what is known as the serious concerns protocol after ruling there had been a lack of progress addressing problems identified in earlier inspections.

Neath Port Talbot accepted the findings and agreed a series of key improvements to work towards over the following 12 months.

However, Mr Black has since discovered, through a Freedom of Information Act request, that the council had a £374,730 loan in March, 2010, to transform the delivery of children's services.

Yet, he said, the CSSIW report found that approach to managing children on the risk register had actually led to "inconsistent and in some cases unsafe practice".

The report, he said, found the model did not work for a number of reasons.

These included the high volume of referrals coming into each team requiring a timely response, the high numbers of child protection cases requiring legal action, a lack of capacity and inexperienced social workers not getting management support.

Mr Black said: "This project has now been abandoned, leaving the new head of children's services to pick up the pieces.

"The council's children's services are in special measures and not considered currently fit for purpose. However, the money still has to be repaid, with the final instalment of nearly £125,000 due in the next financial year."

Mr Black added: "From what I can see from the report, the decision to proceed with this project plunged children's services in the county into chaos, potentially putting many children at risk.

"How was the decision to borrow the money and invest in this project taken? What risk assessment was undertaken and how robust was it? Were elected members involved in the decision?

"How was the project monitored during its lifetime and did that involve an assessment of its impact on workloads?

"The investment in this new system appears to be one of the reasons why children's services in Neath Port Talbot are in special measures. Yet there has been no scrutiny of this decision and no apology or explanation from the council.

"This money has been wasted while local children have been put at risk. That is an outrage."

A council spokeswoman said: "Mr Black is scaremongering and needs to get his facts straight.

"Contrary to his statement, children's services are not in special measures nor did the invest to save project leave the service in chaos.

"The council has pioneered lean systems work across a range of its services with generally positive results which have been verified independently.

"However, despite a positive assessment from Swansea University, the council decided a year ago,to discontinue the application of lean systems principles and employ alternative strategies for improvement."

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  • thomastdout  |  January 24 2013, 10:18AM

    NPTC childrens services are failing and are in disarray,fact.Even after the millions thrown at the problem,and now we have a new cabinet member in charge of social services John Rogers who is not up to the task.Given the position by the way for having the audacity to chalenge Ali Thomas for the leadership of the authority.

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  • bennyhill4  |  January 08 2013, 6:54PM

    Gorsseinon Joe, what sticks in the throat of most on here is the fact that he criticises NPT for doing what his party did when they were in office. Firstly he needs to apologise for what happened in swansea on his watch, and then he can say he learned from the mistakes made. Maybe then people will listen

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  • GorsseinonJoe  |  January 08 2013, 12:05PM

    The following is in the SWEP report above, how anyone can accuse Mr Black of scaremongering for pointing out what NPT have accepted as a failing service beggars belief. "The CSSIW invoked what is known as the serious concerns protocol after ruling there had been a lack of progress addressing problems identified in earlier inspections.Neath Port Talbot accepted the findings and agreed a series of key improvements to work towards over the following 12 months. However, Mr Black has since discovered, through a Freedom of Information Act request, that the council had a £374,730 loan in March, 2010, to transform the delivery of children's services." He is not in power any longer and maybe the LIbDems may never get power in Swansea again BUT this report is about NPT and the waste of taxpayers money and a failing service, he has every right to highlight failing services and make taxpayers aware, otherwise he would be accused of failing in his duty. Stop being so party political and accept that every political party make mistakes and we should challenge waste of OUR money.

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  • watchdog12360  |  January 08 2013, 10:56AM

    Its not about Peter Black or this paper really. Its about the services not being delivered to our most venerable children who need our help. If a public/private service cannot be provided at a standard that we all can expect then that service is not fit for purpose. There needs to be an outside investigation into this authority who's track record concerning the distribution of taxpayers money over the years as been appalling. Yet no one, not one person has been made accountable so any bad practice including its failing child protection services within this authority continues with impunity, infecting the entire system. So it matters not if its 'Dodgy Peter Black' giving politics a bad name, or Witch of the South Gwenda Thomas who is against children in care having an independent voice, or even our old favourite Jack in the Box himself 'Peter Vain' making a statements to this newspaper. The fact remains that Neath and Port Talbot council as a Twenty one million pound black hole, its children services is failing, it is in financial meltdown without any accountability and it needs investigating NOW!. NPT Watchdog

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  • Jiffy  |  January 08 2013, 10:39AM

    The EP should always print photographs of Peter Black when he makes a fool of himself. That way we know who to laugh at when we see him.

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  • bobthepost  |  January 08 2013, 10:39AM

    Peter Black was part of the Lib/Dem administration that took Swansea's social services into special measures then took money from the education budget in a failed attempt to bail themselves out so we ended up with social services in special measures and school closures. Not a man we should pay much attention to.

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  • weslangdon  |  January 08 2013, 10:33AM

    His comments add nothing and the money involved is trivial in terms of Childrens Social Services spending. The cost of a residential placement in a specialist unit for one child could cost the above figure alone so the idea that it could transform the problems faced are ludicrous. In the longer term Councils need to be merged and management models used by the best run authorities need to be adopted the lead on this has to come from the WAG.

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  • bennyhill4  |  January 08 2013, 10:19AM

    I agree with the comments of jiffy and sonofsands,but what really concerns me is the fact that the EP publishes every word this man says in every detail, yet prints only a few sentences when someone responds to his accusations. Has anyone noticed when the EP prints comments from him they also nearly always prints a photo of him? It makes me wonder whether relatives of his work on this paper because he certainly gets preferential treatment from the EP

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  • paul0453  |  January 08 2013, 9:53AM

    Either Peter Black has found another bandwagon to jump on, or is he trying to divert our attention away from the cuts his government are introducing this week?

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  • sonofsand  |  January 08 2013, 8:26AM

    Peter Black didn't seem nearly so worried when failing childrens services at Swansea Council were taken over by an Assembly intervention team 2009. Maybe that's because it was Lib Dem controlled at the time. This man gives politics a bad name (if that's possible).

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