Liverpool’s children’s services were heavily criticised. Are they on the mend?
Plus: the destruction of a listed mansion and performance of a Dickens classic
Dear readers — welcome to this week’s briefing, which includes a chance to meet Tranmere Rovers legend Steve McNulty, a gorgeous cottage in Thornton, and our big story: are Liverpool’s children’s services improving quickly enough?
You might remember that back in May, Liverpool City Council was faced with a damning report that branded its children’s services “inadequate”, citing systematic failures putting vulnerable children at risk. Since that report, the council has been conducting a complete overhaul — bringing in a new Director of Practice Improvement and Head of Children’s Services as part of the shake-up. Is it enough to change things?
At the weekend, Matt O’Donoghue wrote a piece for us detailing the downfall of Liverpool conman Robert Ware — a man, who for over a decade, lived a life of luxury as he destroyed careers and emptied the bank accounts of people who trusted him most.
It’s a sad and shocking read, with one victim of Ware’s crimes telling O’Donoghue: “He’s taken everything from me; my health, my dignity and self-respect, the family legacy… Five generations it took to build that business up. All of it is gone because of him.”
Last week, Post members were treated to two fantastic pieces. On Tuesday, our new staff writer Lisa published her first piece — an in-depth look inside the Labour Party in Merseyside as tensions over the war in Gaza spilled over. It prompted a lively discussion in the comments section — do get involved and let us know what you think here.
Then on Thursday, Abi examined the University of Liverpool’s aim to break into the world’s top 100 institutions by 2031. She found a host of disgruntled staff doubtful over the university’s lofty ambition, with one telling her: “I used to be proud to say I studied and worked at the university, now it makes me cringe.”
Editor’s note: Both those stories are members-only affairs, so if you’re not a member already, this is a very good moment to subscribe. We had a fantastic month of growth last month but we’re a bit behind target in November so far. There are currently 1,311 paying members on our list, who get eight extra doses of high quality local journalism every month, including expert political analysis, great culture writing, and incisive investigative reporting. Join them by clicking that button below.
From today’s sponsor: Looking for a unique Christmas present for the reader in your life? Look no further. Crime Ink is a Liverpool-based book subscription company specialising in thrillers, detective stories, and true crime: perfect for the criminal connoisseur.
Every month Crime Ink sends out a new novel, providing detective-style clues beforehand to build anticipation. It’s the brainchild of Liverpool Post member Niamh Finucane, who curates collections from a wide range of authors, with a mix of big names and lesser-known writers. She also puts together adventure story subscriptions for children, and beautifully presented gift boxes. Find out more here.
This week’s weather
Tuesday ☀️ Sunny intervals and a gentle breeze with highs of 10°C
Wednesday ☁️ Light cloud and a moderate breeze with highs of 12°C
Thursday ☁️ Light cloud and a fresh breeze with highs of 13°C
Friday 🌦️ Light rain and a moderate breeze with highs of 11°C
Saturday 🌧️ Drizzle and a moderate breeze with highs of 9°C
This week’s weather forecast is sourced from BBC Weather and it’s for Liverpool.
The big story: Are Liverpool’s children’s services improving quickly enough?
Top line: A cabinet report on work to improve Liverpool’s children’s services has offered an insight into Liverpool City Council’s attempts to tackle systemic issues that led to an ‘inadequate’ Ofsted report earlier this year. The latest report — by new Director of Practice Improvement Alison Brown — sets out the steps the council has undertaken since the bombshell Ofsted judgement. But is the council moving quickly enough to transform the service, said to be leaving children ‘at risk’ through poor practice?
The inadequate inspection result, following visits carried out by Ofsted in March, was damning. Listing a catalogue of “serious weaknesses” that were putting vulnerable children in the city at risk, the report spoke of the failure of senior officer oversight and scrutiny, highlighting elements of services previously judged in need of improvement deteriorating even further.
The report stated there had been no “systematic approach to improvement” which had been “compounded” by a failure to get to grips with problems of staff recruitment and retention.
The result, the report noted, was that “this is leaving some children at risk of, or suffering, ongoing significant harm.”
It also found senior leaders “have not been aware of the extent of current practice deficits or the impact on children”.
In the aftermath of the report, then cabinet member Frazer Lake claimed he and former mayor Joanne Anderson had attempted to have the previous Director of Children’s Services, Steve Reddy (who resigned in January) removed from post. Ultimately they said they failed to secure the support of then chief executive Tony Reeves, who, by the time Lake was speaking in July had been replaced by interim chief executive Theresa Grant, who had herself stepped aside after the appointment of Andrew Lewis as permanent replacement.
Still following this? OK, we’ll carry on. Lake later resigned, citing incompatible new work commitments. Liz Parsons was then installed as the new cabinet member responsible for the troubled department.
The latest report, set to be discussed at cabinet tomorrow, provides an update on what’s been going on behind the scenes as the council attempts to get a grip of the issue.
Alongside a series of high level personnel changes, including the appointment in August of Jenny Turnross as new head of children’s services, and two new directors, an improvement board set up in the aftermath is now up and running with an independent chair in the form of former Cheshire West Council Chief Executive Gerald Meehan, who has a background in social care.
A Department For Education-appointed advisor, who has been contracted to work with the council for six days a month to “provide a clear and sustained focus on areas for improvement and to ensure independent oversight of Liverpool City Council’s progress in line with the improvement plan” has been working their way through the various services, having already carried out a review into early help in the city.
The advisor’s appointment contrasts with the situation in neighbouring Sefton, where a commissioner had been appointed to oversee the council’s approach to improving their inadequate children’s services, such was the level of concern there over systematic failures, as previously reported by the Post.
According to the cabinet papers, the independent advisor has so far produced one written report detailing the progress in Liverpool as moving forward as “expected” although it adds there is “still much to do.”
The council has also recently finalised its improvement plan, which was submitted to Ofsted in September. That plan was released ahead of a meeting of the council’s scrutiny committee, which took place last week and detailed 77 distinct activities to be undertaken to address the 11 key areas of improvement identified by Ofsted. As of September, nine of those actions were listed as ‘complete’.
With regular updates being provided to both the scrutiny committee and cabinet, the report speaks of confidence in the council’s ability to transform the situation, combatting the years of “drift and delay” that led to the crisis. Whether that will come quickly enough for the families currently being let down by the local authority remains to be seen, although the council report said they are seeking to strike a balance between speed and meaningful change: “Critically, we need to ensure that children are safe now, so we are clear that whilst we need to respond quickly, we also need to respond in a focused manner.”
Do you have any tips regarding this story? Get in touch with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
🎤 On Tuesday, LEAF on Bold Street hosts the Liverpool Indie Choir. The group will perform a host of indie rock, pop and alternative hits, with plenty of opportunity to sing along. Find out more here.
👻 The Athenaeum welcomes back ArtsGroupie CIC on Thursday for a performance of their new production of the Charles Dickens classic The Signalman. In the tradition of classic oral storytelling, the performance will include just one lantern and two actors. Find out more here.
🎸 The Smyths head to the O2 Academy on Friday to celebrate 20 years as one of the most loved tributes to The Smiths. Doors open at 7pm — buy a ticket here.
⚽ On Friday, Tranmere Rovers legend Steve McNulty heads to the Lyceum Club in Birkenhead to discuss his impressive career, and how he became one of the most loved defenders in the club’s history. Tickets include a hot meal during the interval and live music — buy one here.
Your Post briefing
Wirral Borough Council has been chosen as one of 55 local authorities whose project will receive a share of £1 billion of third round Levelling up funding, the only Merseyside council to be included in this round. The local authority has been awarded £10.8m for a project to renew Liscard Town Centre.
The road where a Liverpool couple drowned could remain closed for another year, according to the council. Elaine and Philip Marco died on Queens Drive after getting stuck in their car during a flood in August. The road was closed while the local authority investigated their deaths, and oversaw the instalment of safety mechanisms such as modern gullies and CCTV. The majority of those works has now been completed, however supply issues mean a delay in the installation of gully sensors, which detect the presence of flood water. A council spokesperson told the BBC that a full report on the safety of the road was currently being reviewed.
A building firm has been fined £80,000 for letting a Grade II listed building in Liverpool fall into disrepair. Woolton Developments One Ltd were found guilty of allowing St Gabriels, a Georgian mansion on Beaconsfield Road to "rot and become a blot on the landscape", as well as failing to secure the property from vandals and arsonists. The home — which was built back in 1928 — has been subject to at least three fires, the council has said, leading the property to be damaged significantly. District Judge Healey said the company's "culpability was high" and imposed the £80,000 fine along with surcharges of over £7,000.
Pudsey Bear appeared in Liverpool this morning ahead of the BBC’s annual Children In Need fundraiser. Pudsey was photographed posing next to the statue of The Beatles on Pier Head, with the image posted on social media site X by Liverpool City Council. A cryptic message accompanied the image: “Douze points for styling-out that bag, which looks very familiar… Bear with us, and more will be revealed soon”.
We’re writing a story about the history and legacy of the Liverpool 8 Law Centre in Toxteth. If you have any anecdotes about the centre please do get in touch — we’d love to hear them! Email email@example.com.
We’re writing a piece about the world of panto in Liverpool. Are you an actor, director or a staff member working on a pantomime in Merseyside? Get it touch — email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our favourite reads
“I think everyone can, and perhaps should, take a short holiday where they come from or reside. Travel on the doorstep, at narrowboat speed – even when some of the water has gone – is the future, as well as the past,” writes Chris Moss for The Guardian. Born and bred in the North-West, Moss embarks on a 20-mile walk along Liverpool’s Sankey Canal and details his gorgeous trip, meeting historians, barmen and fellow hikers along the way. It’s a fantastic read, and serves as a reminder that we should all spend a little more time outside in the fresh air, embracing the place we grew up in.
One from the vaults this week, as Football Paradise takes you through the rich history of former Liverpool FC manager Bob Paisley with this piece from 2017. “Standing at 5’7”, Paisley seemed like an ever-jovial Santa Claus to Shankly’s bastion-like facade,” Taha Memom writes. “For Shankly, life began and ended at football; for Paisley, horse-racing and an evening with his wife was equally important.” The piece is told through fantastic anecdotes about Paisley — from his sound advice to players about booze, to relying on his old PE teacher for tips on the field. It’s well worth your time to read.
Home of the week
This three bedroom cottage in Thornton is on the market for £299,950. It’s right next to Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve, with a secluded rear garden and driveway to the rear of the home. Find out more here.
Letters from readers
Excellent and salutary article. It's easy to say in retrospect that the victims should have been more aware but it's human nature to trust those around us, especially when they are "professionals". Respect to Merseyside Police for putting in the time and resources required to bring Ware to court. ‘A legacy of lies: The downfall of a Liverpool conman’, Ruth Ware
A very balanced piece. I don’t know anybody who supports the action by Hamas, but still recognise that they are not acting on behalf of the Palestinian people in general. Most people also recognise that the Israeli people as a whole do not want the constant threat of warfare. Whether they have access to unbiased news reports, I don’t know. ‘‘Comradely’ disagreements or a ‘total mess’? Inside Merseyside Labour as war rages in the Middle East’, Barbara Serres