'Why is Birmingham's infant mortality rate worse than in Cuba?'

England’s second city singled out as a 'national disgrace' over failure

Social Affairs Correspondent

Birmingham City Council’s record at protecting children was branded “a national disgrace” by Ofsted’s Chief Inspector today, in an extraordinary outburst which catalogued a decade of failure.

Speaking at the launch of the watchdog’s first annual report into social care, Sir Michael Wilshaw said that infant mortality in the city was “worse than in Cuba and on a par with Latvia and Chile”.

He singled out the city council, one of 20 local authorities branded “inadequate” for child protection, because he said it encapsulated failings common to all of them.

He said: “These characteristics of failure have been encapsulated in one area in particular: England’s second city – Birmingham, a city where we have had seven failed inspection judgements; eight whistleblowing incidents in four years; nine years of inadequate serious case reviews and 10 years of failure for vulnerable children. Secretaries of State intervened in 2010, 2011 and 2012… and we still saw failure in our last inspection.”

He later added: “How on earth has it come to this? Why is it that Birmingham has 12 of the 20 neighbourhoods that have declined most dramatically in the whole of England over the past 10 years? Why is it that nearly a third of children in the city live in households on low incomes?

“Why is it that infant mortality is almost twice the national average, worse than in Cuba and on a par with Latvia and Chile? Why is it that Birmingham has some of the worst levels of statutory homelessness in the country? Why is it that levels of long term unemployment in the city are more than double the national average?

“These are shocking statistics and a national disgrace.”

His outburst comes just a few weeks after it emerged that Birmingham City Council had failed to prevent the murder of two-year-old Keanu Williams by his mother, after allowing unqualified workers and students to conduct key reviews into his safety. A serious case review into his death, published earlier this month, found authorities had failed at “fundamental levels of care” and missed “horrifying” cruelty.

Sir Michael said poor leadership and the size of the council were two explanations for its repeated failings: “[The statistics] must surely be linked to the evidenced failure of corporate governance on a grand scale – governance that has failed to grasp the nettle over many years and which has relegated our second city to fourth division for children’s services.

“As someone said about the banks not so long ago, if they are too big to fail they are too big. The same could be said of this council.”

In a final rallying call to council leaders, he said: “I have to ask the question: can political leaders in Birmingham deliver the scale of the change that is now required? If they cannot, should national government act before more children suffer, or indeed, before more children die whose deaths could have been prevented?”

The speech will have made uncomfortable listening for the city’s acting strategic director for children, young people, Peter Hay, who was among those in the audience listening to Sir Michael in Church House, Westminster. He has been in the post for just three months and is charged with trying to turn the city’s record around.

A Birmingham City Council spokeswoman said: "We are already on record as saying that we have failed to meet the basic expectation of keeping vulnerable children in this city safe. This is a long-standing problem which we acknowledge and the leader has said that improving children's services is his number one priority.”

She added: “What we don't need, however, is simply a repetition of our failings without any proposed solutions.

"While we can only agree with the seriousness of what Sir Michael has said with regard to children's services - indeed we have said it ourselves - we now need improvement rather than further diagnosis lacking any offer of solutions. We must work with Ofsted on this and we repeat our determination to improve the safety of children in this city as the highest priority for this council."

Sport
Lionel Messi pictured after reaching the final
world cup 2014
Sport
Lionel Messi and Thomas Muller have shone brightest for Argentina and Germany respectively on their way to the World Cup final
Sport
Brazilian fans watch the match for third place between Brazil and Netherlands
Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: Dutch pile on the misery in third place playoff
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

    £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

    C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

    C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

    £60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

    Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

    £75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?