How warning signs over Wakefield Council's inadequate children's services may have been missed

Wakefield Town Hall
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A "relationship breakdown" may have lead to warning signs being missed over failings in Wakefield's children's services, it's been claimed.

The independent chair of the Wakefield district's Safeguarding Children Board, which unites all local organisations involved in protecting youngsters, has criticised former council officers for not informing her fully about issues in the department.

Edwina Harrison, independent chair of Wakefield and District Safeguarding Children Board

Edwina Harrison, independent chair of Wakefield and District Safeguarding Children Board

Ofsted rated the council's service for vulnerable youngsters 'inadequate' in July, after highlighting a litany of failures.

But speaking at a children's scrutiny committee on Wednesday, Edwina Harrison said she'd "reflected" on how warning signs had not come to her attention sooner. However, she did not name any of the people she claimed to have fallen out with.

Ms Harrison said: "I’ve looked back on the things I said and did at the time (before Ofsted visited).

"It's fair to say there was a significant relationship breakdown with people who I'd asked for information, and previously I’d have expected a response from them.

"I did take the opportunity to speak to Ofsted back in February and that caused difficulties, but I felt I had to do that.

"It's been a difficult period for everybody, including myself.

Ms Harrison said it would be inappropriate to give further details because the situation had changed since a new corporate director for children and young people, Beate Wagner, was appointed in March.

She added that the people she was talking about no longer worked at the council.

Coun Kevin Swift said that the revelations prompted further issues for the council and how its activities are scrutinised.

He said: "On the huge question of, 'How the hell did we end up in this situation without anybody seeing it coming?', I’m a bit worried about what you’ve said.

"I understand what you’re saying, but we’re being asked to trust everything on the basis that someone somewhere is getting it right, but that’s what we were being told 12 months ago."

The chair of the committee, Coun David Jones, said that elected members were now being given better access to information about children's services than previously, meaning its performance was more transparent.

A government commissioner who is currently inspecting the service will publish a report later this month, which could see the department taken out of the council's hands.