Parents use children’s shoes in Merseyside council protest

Posted: 29th September 2023

Parents laid children’s footwear outside a council meeting in a protest at a local authority they say could not “walk a mile in their shoes”.

The Voice of the Families group staged the protest outside a Sefton Council meeting in Southport following negative experiences of the authority’s children’s services.

The area’s children’s services is currently in special measures.

The council has promised to work with parents to address their concerns.

A Department for Education-appointed commissioner is overseeing an improvement plan after a dire Ofsted inspection last year.

Sefton’s director of children’s services Risthardh Hare said: “We want to achieve the same things, which is the same aspirations and outcomes for our children.

“We are going to sit down, get around the table and see how we can join together and reach a common goal.”

Voice of the Families’ chairman David Moorhead said: “They’ve had years to improve and they just haven’t. We represent 250 families who feel broken and destroyed.”

Mr Moorhead, a retired teacher, said some of the issues families have experienced include safeguarding concerns around school transport and the council not finding an alternative education setting when parents have removed their child from school.

He claimed there was a high turnover of staff at the authority which meant case workers left without a proper handover, leaving parents feeling “trapped and isolated”.

He said: “There are only two authorities in the whole North West that the government have had to send in a commissioner – one is Blackpool and one is Sefton.

“Blackpool turned things around through working with the parents. But in Sefton there is a culture of ‘blame the parent’.”

The group handed in a petition demanding three members be added to the scrutiny committee who have “lived experience” of children’s services and supporting vulnerable children.

Mr Moorhead said: “It’s like me being asked to be on a committee about naval matters, which I know nothing about. We need people on the committee who understand this issue.”

Councillor Judy Hardman, chairman of the scrutiny committee, said she understood the concerns but things were improving.

She said social workers had been “working their socks off” and “are beginning to turn the tanker around”.

Mr Hare said: “We’ve seen positive changes in recruitment of staff, we’ve developed our own social work academy.

“We’ve also recruited from overseas and the quality and passion of those colleagues is exemplary”.

Mr Moorhead said he hoped the shoes would serve as a stark message that children should be a priority.

“The council need to see they are accountable and they can’t dismiss us. We are not invisible,” he said.

The latest Ofsted monitoring visit said the pace of change at the council was too slow in some areas, but recognised the increased number of social workers.

Source – Parents use children’s shoes in Merseyside council protest – BBC News

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