THE DAMNING Joint Targeted Area Inspection (JTAI) report has been welcomed by all across Solihull.
The report, published on Monday (February 21) called for improvements and measures to be put in place by West Midlands Police and Solihull Council and other agencies to help children in the borough.
Here’s what they said:
LEADER of Solihull Council, Councillor Ian Courts, said: “I acknowledge and accept the findings of the Joint Targeted Area Inspection.
“We cannot bring Arthur back but we can ensure that safeguarding in Solihull is as good as it can be.
“We are committed to working with our partners to deliver the required improvements, as detailed in the JTAI, to improve safeguarding in Solihull.
“During the JTAI we explained to inspectors we recognised there were areas for improvement within the council as evidenced by our existing improvement plan, but also understood we need to update this so we can implement the necessary changes more quickly.
“We have already increased our social workers to make sure we can meet the rising demand and to support the work we do with partner organisations.
“The new Improvement Board will support, oversee, and importantly challenge partner organisations with responsibility for safeguarding children, on their progress in delivering an updated Improvement Plan.
“We have recruited an independent chair, Penny Thompson, to begin the work of improving safeguarding in the borough.
“The JTAI was specifically focused on how Solihull’s safeguarding partnership was working to prevent harm to children and young people in the borough. We have to wait for the National Panel Review due out later this year to fully understand the circumstances around Arthur’s life and any particular findings around safeguarding practice in his case.”
ON behalf of the Solihull Local Safeguarding Children Partnership (LSCP), Independent Scrutineer Steve Cullen, said: “The Solihull Partnership acknowledges and accepts the findings of the JTAI following the tragic murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.
“The Partnership needs to better understand the lived experiences of children in Solihull and individual organisations need to make improvements to the way they respond to children – we haven’t waited until the report to do this, work has already begun.
“The local authority has established a multi-agency Improvement Board with an independent chair to drive forward the necessary changes.
“This Board will support, oversee, and importantly challenge partner organisations with responsibility for safeguarding children on their progress in making the necessary improvements.
“We are pleased that the inspection team highlighted the commitment and knowledge of staff within the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) and recognised their dedication to meeting the needs of children in Solihull.
“I want to provide assurance that we have taken on board all of the comments from the inspectors and we committed to work together to improve the way we protect children in Solihull.”
WEST Midlands Police said: “The death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes has touched us all in some way.
“The loss of someone so young in such terrible circumstances is incomprehensible, so it is important that we reflect and work with partners to embrace the learning which follows.
“The inspection highlighted a number of improvement areas both for the partnership and individual organisations, which included an urgent action for West Midlands Police to improve the quality of information held on its records management system, Connect.
“This was introduced in April 2021, after Arthur’s death in 2020, to enable the force to migrate a number of stand-alone information management systems into one to improve how information is managed.
“Since then work has continued to improve our ability to bring relevant information together and enhance the quality and management of information available to help us identify and manage risks more accurately.”
Solihull MP, Julian Knight, said: “I welcome the findings of the JTAI report into Children’s Services at Solihull Council.
“The murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes in 2020 should never have happened, and the recommendations set out within the report will now give SMBC the opportunity to reflect on what improvements are necessary moving forward.
“The report highlights a number of issues around capacity and staffing, which in turn, means that children in need of help are waiting too long for their initial need and risk to be assessed.
“I have received assurances from the acting director for Children’s Services at Solihull Council that staffing levels have risen significantly over recent months.
“As your local MP, I will continue to work alongside the Council to ensure the findings and recommendations contained within the JTAI are implemented over the coming weeks and months ahead.”
Joanna Barrett, NSPCC nations head of policy, said: “It’s hugely concerning that this inspection has found systemic problems with the ‘front door’ of safeguarding services which mean a significant number of children are waiting far too long for their initial assessment, leaving them at risk of harm and cruelty.
“It is absolutely crucial that safeguarding agencies in Solihull are better resourced and work together more quickly and efficiently to share information and intervene as early as possible to prevent any more tragedies like the death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.
“It is vital the government displays national leadership by addressing existing pressures on children’s services and ensuring the recommendations from the National Child Safeguarding Review Panel and the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care are a watershed moment that leads to significant change in our child protection system.”
Sam Mather, chair of Solihull and Meriden Labour Party, said: “We were all horrified and deeply saddened by Arthur’s murder.
“The publication of the Joint Targeted Area Inspection Report has exposed a catalogue of failings within Solihull Council’s Children’s Services department.
“The safeguarding of our children should be paramount.
“This is a systemic failure, which continues to put a significant number of children at risk within our borough.
“The Council’s handling of Children’s Services has been nothing short of scandalous and the report shows that Tory Councillors presided over a catastrophically flawed service, which needs to be radically changed and adequately resourced.”