In January Thurrock Independent Housing Spokesman, Cllr Luke Spillman, sent a report to the council and the Conservative Administration detailing serious concerns regarding the treatment of homeless families had received from Children’s Services. The report was based on the experiences of four families who had sought assistance with housing from the council.
The report outlined the following concerns:
– Despite accepting serious concerns, raised by Cllr Spillman back in April 2017, and the agreeing the need for a joint Children’s Services/Housing solution no action had be taken to develop this new approach.
– Repeated reassurances were made that these families were being actively assisted in finding a new home when no such assistance was offered.
– Severe gaps in the housing and welfare benefits training of Children’s services staff. Cllr Spillman uncovered one error that may have cost the council over £10,000.
– Poor conduct of staff towards elected members. In one case it is alleged that a family was discouraged for seeking the help of their elected representative.
– Inaccurate and misleading information being given to portfolio holders by the department which was subsequently delivered to full council.
– Allegations of the abuse of power by Children’s Services staff in their dealings with residents. Evidence that threats of the removal of children have been made to families seemingly in order to frighten them into not seeking further assistance.
– Children placed at risk by the departments policy on homeless families. Cllr Spillman witnessed homeless children under the department’s care leave the council without social workers having any idea where they were going to sleep that night.
– Encouraging social cleansing. The department actively encouraged families to leave Thurrock. On one occasion referring them as far away as Durham.
– Breaching data protection. Cllr Spillman witnessed officers and managers openly discussing child welfare matters in an open plan area of the council.
– A culture of collective denial that the any of the above incidents require action.
Cllr Luke Spillman added: “The overriding impression these four cases give of the department is that the well-being of children is an afterthought. I saw a lot of concern for statutory duty. I saw a lot of gatekeeping. I saw a lot of demand management. The actual children in these cases appear to have been almost invisible to the department. This is simply not acceptable nor is the response we have received from the council thus far. Rather than take responsibilty for obvious failings and seek to improve, the department appears to prefer to adopt an unhelpful defensive posture. A Thurrock Independents administration at Thurrock Council would take immediate and decisive action to resolve these matters once and for all. Thurrock Independents will not tolerate residents, in genuine need of assistance, experiencing such poor levels of service.”