Government ‘intervention advisors’ move in to scandal-hit Tower Hamlets children’s service

PUBLISHED: 16:05 18 September 2017 | UPDATED: 14:54 19 September 2017

Government advisors move in to Tower Hamlets Children's Services. Picture: Mike Brooke

Government advisors move in to Tower Hamlets Children's Services. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Government ‘intervention advisors’ are reported to have moved in to help run Tower Hamlets children’s services after its disastrous Ofsted report.

Opposition Cllr Rabina Khan... Opposition Cllr Rabina Khan... "Tower Hamlets social services are unsafe." Picture: Mike Brooke

The move follows Education Secretary Justine Greening’s requirement for the council to improve the service which was hit by a safeguarding scandal in April.

Council officials didn’t even know whether fostered children had been “trafficked or abandoned” while vulnerable children were at risk of harm, government inspectors found.

So advisors were being parachuted in from Islington and Leicestershire local authorities.

“Commissioners are back under a different name, sadly because social services are unsafe,” People’s Alliance opposition group leader Rabina Khan claimed.

Chief Executive Will Tuckley (left) and Mayor John Biggs after damning Ofsted report. Picture: Mike BrookeChief Executive Will Tuckley (left) and Mayor John Biggs after damning Ofsted report. Picture: Mike Brooke

“Labour’s new mayor promised to be ‘Mr Fix-It’—but he can’t blame this government intervention on the previous administration.”

The Ofsted findings embarrassed Labour which took over from Lutfur Rahman’s banned administration in the 2015 re-run election for mayor.

The findings came six months after the Local Government Secretary handed back powers to the town hall following the three-year commissioners’ intervention over mismanaged council grants from the public coffers in the Rahman years.

This latest inspection found many fostered children remained in “situations of actual or potential harm” because of insufficient scrutiny by the council’s chief executive, the children’s services director and politicians.

John Biggs and Cllr Rachael Saunders the night he won Tower Hamlets Mayor election in 2015. Picture: Mike BrookeJohn Biggs and Cllr Rachael Saunders the night he won Tower Hamlets Mayor election in 2015. Picture: Mike Brooke

The council failed to intervene in childcare cases and officials were “clueless whether fostered children were at risk of harm or trafficking”, April’s council meeting heard.

Ofsted had criticised failings in leadership. This was followed by the lead councillor for children’s services, Rachael Saunders, stepping down from the post in a cabinet reshuffle. She is also leaving the council at the next election.

But Mayor John Biggs this week accused Cllr Khan of being “in denial” about the previous administration “which she played a key part in”.

He added: “The problems in children’s social care developed under her watch. She should hang her head in shame.”

There was “no fresh instruction” and the council was working with Islington and Lincolnshire to “restore the investment she stripped out for vulnerable children”, the mayor insisted.

Islington is helping social care staff recruitment, while an extra £4.8 million is being spent on improvements required by Ofsted to “fundamentally change” the way children’s services are run.

But another opposition group, the Independent, claimed this week that the administration was “in meltdown” with a ‘hit squad’ diplomatically described as “intervention advisers”.

Lutfur Rahman’s former deputy Ohid Ahmed said: “The mayor should take a break from inventing scapegoats and making excuses, describing a government ‘hit squad’ imposed to take over our children services as ‘intervention advisers’. This is politically convenient rhetoric.

“He should own up to failing vulnerable children. His office is in complete meltdown, but the buck stops with him.”

Labour’s lead councillor for children’s services, Rachael Saunders, stepped down from the post after April’s Ofsted report which criticised failings in leadership, which led to her move across to adult services in Mayor Biggs’ subsequent cabinet reshuffle.

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