Make no mistake about it, Salford City Council's record when it comes to vulnerable children is a national disgrace. In spring last year, Salford Star called for Jill Baker, Head of Children's Services, to resign after OFSTED absolutely slated the Council on its record of looking after children on the `at risk' register, while Council Leader John Merry admitted in issue 7 of the magazine that "We didn't safeguard children in the way that we should have done".
More recently, three children's homes in Salford were judged `inadequate', again by OFSTED, while the official report into the tragic death of toddler Demi Mahon showed so many failings in the city's Children's Department it almost ran out of paper.
Way back in March, the horribly named Salford Strategic Partnership Executive (a mix of top people from the Council, the URC, the Primary Care Trust, Partners IN Salford, Community Committee, Chamber of Commerce etc) was consulted by the Government on the Child Poverty Bill.
Introduced by the Council's Chris Marsh, the item was bottom of the agenda, and the Executive was asked for its views on three options `with regard to child poverty'.
Option 1 was for the introduction of a duty on Local Authorities to tackle child poverty.
Option 2 was that all partners would be required to have regard to child poverty.
Option 3 was for the setting of a specific child poverty indicator by Local Authorities in their LAA targets.
Surely after everything that Salford's most vulnerable kids have been through the Executive would vote for the imposition of a duty to tackle child poverty? Nope. They voted for the softest possible Option 2, to `have regard to child poverty'. And this view – from our so-called representatives – was duly sent back to the Government.
Fortunately, when the Child Poverty Bill was passed, the Government ignored these minority nods and winks to poverty and it's now enshrined in law that local authorities have a duty to tackle child poverty.
In a paper produced by the Government on the consultation the reason given for councils, like Salford, not wanting a duty to be imposed on them was that "They believed the human and financial resources required would put a significant strain on local budgets".
Isn't this `strain on local budgets' what caused Salford's child protection problems in the first place, when the city wouldn't spend money on social workers? It's really strange that no-one in the Council thought £20million spent on the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra might put more of a `strain on local budgets' than a duty to end child poverty…
"Central government is giving itself a duty to end child poverty and the Child Poverty Action Group strongly believes it is right for the bill to give local authorities a clear duty too" says Child Poverty Action Group's Tim Nichols "Ministers must consider the extra resources that might be required for the new demands put on councils. But with four million British children living below the poverty line, it is essential that action to end this moral outrage is a priority of government at all levels when deciding how to allocate resources."
see also Jam Tomorrow