There remain “serious concerns” with the children’s services department that oversaw murdered five-year-old Logan Mwangi, a watchdog has found.
Care Inspectorate Wales acknowledged that there had been improvements at Bridgend County Borough Council over the past 12 months, that “further urgent action” was needed to improve services for children and families.
Logan was killed by his mother, stepfather and stepbrother last July after suffering “catastrophic” internal injuries consistent with a “brutal and sustained assault” compared to a car crash.
Angharad Williamson (31), John Cole (40) and 14-year-old Craig Mulligan were all convicted of murder and given life sentences.
Bridgend’s children’s department was already under the spotlight before Logan’s death after serious concerns were raised about standards.
Inspectors from Care Inspectorate Wales carried out an insurance check in April 2021 and highlighted areas of concern.
So in May this year, a performance evaluation was carried out which looked at four areas, children, prevention, well-being and collaborative work.
The watchdog said the council, like many other local authorities, was facing high levels of demand for children’s services and increasing case complexity.
There were also problems with retaining experienced staff, recruitment and reliance on newly trained social workers, but praised improved communication with partner agencies.
The report stated: “The culmination of these pressures combined with shortcomings in some systems and processes, including managerial oversight arrangements, has had a significant negative impact on the delivery of some children’s services in Bridgend County Borough.
“Concerns were identified in relation to the timeliness of the council’s information advice and assistance service and the ability to meet its statutory responsibilities to promote and protect the wellbeing of vulnerable children and families.”
The report said there was variation in the quality of services and social work practice provided to children and families, but there had been “recent decisive improvement” following internal and external audits and reviews.
There must also be “sustainable progress in pace” across children’s services, inspectors said.
The inspection was carried out at a time when the council has recognized that “significant measures and resources” were needed to improve children’s provision in the area.
“We found that some improvements had been made since April 2021,” the watchdog said.
“However, we continue to have serious concerns about the delivery of children’s services in Bridgend.
“The local authority has accepted the findings of this report and has assured us that it is prioritizing the work required to address the issues identified by this inspection.”
Authority leaders have set up a strategic board to ensure improvements and are working closely with Cwm Taf Morgannwg Regional Safeguarding Board and other local agencies.
Gillian Baranski, Chief Inspector of Care Inspectorate Wales, said: “I am pleased to acknowledge that there has been some improvement since our insurance check in April 2021.
“However, further urgent action must be taken to ensure and sustain improvements in the care and support of children and families in Bridgend.
– This work must be prioritized to ensure the best possible outcome for children.
“We will continue to be in contact with the local authorities’ senior managers and will closely monitor the municipality’s results.”
Bridgend County Borough Council welcomed the report and said it confirmed that several improvements had already been made while others were being implemented.
Councilor Jane Gebbie, cabinet member for social services and early help, said: “We welcome the findings of this report and have assured inspectors that the progress we have already made will continue.
– Much work has already been done to improve the overall quality of our services for children and their families, and much of this has been highlighted by the report.
“I would like to thank our children’s services for the commitment and dedication they have shown during the significant challenges of the pandemic and beyond.
“The council is also committed to strengthening the overall effectiveness and resilience of children’s services and we will continue to liaise closely with inspectors as we seek to deliver further improvements.”
Following Logan’s death, a child practice review was launched and is being led by the Cwm Taf Morgannwg Safeguarding Board, which includes the local council, the police, the probation service and the NHS.
It is expected to be published later this year.