Following the publication of a review of how Bridgend Council’s children services department handled the case of murdered five year-old Logan Mwangi, Welsh Conservative Shadow Social Services Minister Gareth Davies MS said:
“What happened to Logan was a tragedy that should never have happened and might have been prevented if the failures identified in this report were avoided.
“Not only do we see a reluctance to escalate Logan’s situation in the face of obvious evidence and agencies working in silos, not sharing information, but understaffed departments that prove our concerns about high dependency of agency workers leading to cases like this are vindicated.
“The report also shows the Council being quick to blame Covid for some of its shortcomings, but it does suggest that the Labour Government’s guidance was not clear or responsive enough to allow social workers to properly safeguard vulnerable children during the pandemic.
“It is clear that in addition to Bridgend Council implementing the report’s recommendations, we need a Wales-wide review of children’s services which, sadly, Mark Drakeford continues to block despite Wales being the only UK nation not undertaking one and having the UK’s highest rate of looked-after children.”
Welsh Conservative research recently uncovered that Bridgend Council spent £1,147,354 on agency social workers in the year Logan was killed. The Party argue that permanent staff are needed to build relationships with families and observe cases over time. One of the observations of the report was:
“In order to robustly understand the family dynamics, practitioners need to have sufficient time to undertake assessment sessions, opportunity to undertake observational sessions and sufficient time to reflect and analyse the information gathered… [There was an] absence of consistent experienced staffing across agencies.”
According to Freedom of Information responses, 376 agency social workers were employed by Welsh councils last year at a cost of £20,423,189. This is an increase from 365 for £18,522,072 in 2020/21 and 279 for £16,149,980 the year before. Already since April this year, £1.8m has been spent on 143 such staff but the cost is likely to far exceed this over the course of a whole year.
The reliance of local authorities on agency social workers has become a significant area of concern in recent months after a council that admitted it failed to prevent the murder of toddler Star Hobson has a serious staff retention problem in its children's services.
Bradford Council spent £12.3m on agency staff in the last year – representing a doubling of its spend since the 16-month-old girl died on 22 September 2020. It also has the highest spend in the country.