There remain “serious concerns” with the children’s services department which had oversight of murdered five-year-old Logan Mwangi, a watchdog has found.
Care Inspectorate Wales acknowledged there had been improvements at Bridgend County Borough Council in the last 12 months there was a need for “further urgent action” to improve services for children and families.
Logan was killed by his mother, stepfather and stepbrother in July last year after suffering “catastrophic” internal injuries consistent with a “brutal and sustained assault” likened to a car crash.
Angharad Williamson, 31, John Cole, 40, and 14-year-old Craig Mulligan were all convicted of murder and received life sentences.
Bridgend’s children’s services 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 assurance check in April 2021 and highlighted areas of concern.
Then in May this year, a performance evaluation was undertaken and looked at four areas, children, prevention, wellbeing and partnership working.
The watchdog said the council was like many other local authorities facing high levels of demand on children’s services and increasing case complexities.
There were also problems with the retention of experienced staff, recruitment, and a reliance on newly qualified and agency social workers but praised improved communications with partner agencies.
The report stated: “The culmination of these pressures coupled with deficits in some systems and processes, including managerial oversight arrangements, has had a significant adverse impact on the delivery of some children’s services in Bridgend County Borough.
“Concerns were identified in relation to the timeliness of the local authority’s information advice and assistance service and the ability to meet its statutory responsibilities to promote and protect the well-being of vulnerable children and families.”
The report said there was a variation in the quality of services and social work practice provided to children and families but there had been “more recent decisive improvement” following internal and external audits and reviews.
There would also need to be “sustainable progress at pace” across children’s services, inspectors said.
The inspection was undertaken at a time when the council has recognised that “significant action and resource” was needed to improve children’s services in the area.
“We found 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 it is prioritising the work required to address the issues identified by this inspection.”
Authority leaders have set up a strategic board to ensure improvements are made and is working closely with the Cwm Taf Morgannwg Regional Safeguarding Board and other local agencies.
Gillian Baranski, chief inspector of Care Inspectorate Wales, said: “I am pleased to acknowledge there has been some improvement since our assurance check in April 2021.
“However, further urgent action must be taken to secure and sustain improvement in the care and support for children and families in Bridgend.
“This work must be prioritised to ensure the best possible outcomes for children.
“We will continue to liaise with the local authority’s senior leaders and are closely monitoring the local authority’s performance.”
Bridgend County Borough Council welcomed the report and said it confirmed several improvements have already been made while others were being implemented.
Councillor 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.
“A great deal of work has already taken place 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 workforce for the commitment and dedication that they have demonstrated during the considerable challenges of the pandemic and beyond.
“The council also remains committed towards strengthening the overall effectiveness and resilience of its services for children, and we will continue to liaise closely with the 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 local councils, police, probation service and NHS.
It is expected to be published later this year.