“Serious concerns” remain with the children’s services department that had overseen the murder of Logan Mwangi, a five-year-old boy, found a guard dog.
The Welsh Care Inspectorate acknowledged that improvements have been made to the Bridgend County City Council over the past 12 months that “further urgent action” is needed 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 prolonged assault” likened to a car accident.
Angharad Williamson, 31, John Cole, 40, and Craig Mulligan, 14, were all convicted of murder and were sentenced to life in prison.
Bridgend’s Childcare Department was already in the spotlight before Logan’s death after serious concerns about standards were raised.
Care Inspectorate Wales inspectors carried out a reliability check in April 2021 and highlighted areas of concern.
Then, in May of this year, a performance evaluation was undertaken which 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 for childcare and increasing complexity of cases.
There were also issues with retention of skilled staff, hiring and reliance on newly qualified and agency social workers, but he 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, have had a significant negative impact on the provision of some childcare services in the Bridgend County district.
“Concerns have been identified in relation to the timeliness of the local authority’s advice and information assistance service and the ability to fulfill its statutory responsibilities to promote and protect the well-being of children and vulnerable families.”
The report stated that there was variation in the quality of social work services and practice provided to children and families, but there had been a “more recent decisive improvement” as a result of internal and external audits and reviews.
There should also be “sustainable progress in step” in childcare services, the inspectors said.
The inspection was undertaken at a time when the council recognized that “significant actions and resources” were needed to improve childcare services in the area.
“We have found that some improvements have been made since April 2021,” the watchdog said.
“However, we continue to have serious concerns about the provision of childcare services in Bridgend.
“The local authority has accepted the findings of this report and assured us that it is prioritizing the work needed to address the problems identified by this inspection.”
Authority leaders have established a strategic council to ensure improvements are made 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 have been some improvements since our assurance check in April 2021.
“However, further urgent action needs to be taken to ensure and support improved care and support for children and families in Bridgend.
“This work must be a priority to ensure the best possible results for the children.
“We will continue to maintain contact with senior management from local authorities and are closely monitoring the performance of local authorities.”
Bridgend County City Council welcomed the report and said it confirmed that several improvements have already been made while others were being implemented.
Counselor Jane Gebbie, Cabinet Member for Social Services and Early Aid, said: “We welcome the findings of this report and have assured the 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 was highlighted in the report.
“I would like to thank our childcare workforce for the commitment and dedication they have shown during the considerable challenges of the pandemic and beyond.
“The council also remains committed to strengthening the overall effectiveness and resilience of its services for children and we will continue to work closely with inspectors as we seek to deliver further improvements.”
After Logan’s death, a review of child practices led by the Cwm Taf Morgannwg Safeguarding Board was initiated, which includes local councils, police, probation service and the NHS.
It should be published by the end of the year.