Tower Hamlets council Children’s Service under scrutiny once more

The competence of Tower Hamlets council’s Children’s Service is once more in question as details of misconduct by a supervising social worker in 2017 has emerged as a result of a disciplinary hearing. in February 2021, three and a half years after the misconduct took place.

Photo of Asra Anjum.
Asra Anjum

Asra Anjum attended a hearing into her conduct on three different occasions between January and May 2017 when it was alleged that she did not attend meetings with foster carers despite recording that she had done so.

Ms. Anjum is also Secretary of Poplar & Limehouse Constituency Labour Party (CLP).

The incidents took place while Debbie Jones was Corporate Director of Children’s Services at Tower Hamlets.

She is now the interim director for children, families and education at troubled Croydon Council.

Ofsted ratings up and down like a yo-yo

In 2012 Tower Hamlets children’s services was rated as ‘good’ by Ofsted but in April 2017, two years after Mayor Biggs took over as Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Ofsted condemned the borough’s children’s services as ‘inadequate’, identifying a wide range of failures at all levels including that social workers had not assessed if children at risk had been trafficked or abandoned by their parents.

Photo of Mayor Biggs out canvassing with Asra Anjum.
Mayor Biggs out canvassing with Asra Anjum

Ofsted rated Tower Hamlets Council’s Children’s Services department as ‘good’ in 2019, primarily due to Ms. Jones work.

In a Guardian interview in 2019 she claimed that she and her team had managed to get children’s services ‘off the naughty step’.

Details of Asra Anjum hearing

The full Social Work England Fitness to Practise Committee report which took place on 1-3 February 202 can be downloaded here.

The allegations were that while registered with the Health and Care Professions Council as a Social Worker and employed by London Borough of Tower Hamlets Ms. Anjum:

(1) Recorded that she had visited foster carer A on 20 January 2017 when this was not the case.

(2) Recorded that she had visited foster carer A on 14 March 2017 when this was not the case.

(3) On 18 May 2017:

(a) Did not attend visits that were in her calendar for that day;

(b) Was absent from work without authorisation.

  1. Her actions in particulars 1 and 2 were dishonest.
  2. The matters set out in particulars 1-4 constitute misconduct
  3. By reason of her misconduct her fitness to practise is impaired.

The panel decided to impose a warning for a period of 3 years, concluding that this would satisfy the public interest and took into account the public interest that lies in allowing a competent social worker to continue to serve the public.

The panel took into account numerous mitigating circumstances including the delay of three and half years for the case to be heard.

Ms. Anjum admitted the allegations and said that:

“I have been a Social Worker for the last 17 years from 2000-2017 and it is hugely unfortunate to be in this situation now. I have never put any of my service users at risk nor posed any potential harm to them. I value my service users and demonstrated respect in my practice. I always worked for, and supported their needs in their best interest. “

Ms. Anjum had voluntarily not sought any employment as a social worker since the actions came to light but had been involved in community projects on a voluntary basis.

EEE Comment

In the scheme of things the allegations against Ms. Anjum were on the low end of the misconduct scale and to her credit Ms. Anjum voluntarily turned down offers of employment as a social worker during the incredibly long time she had to wait for the hearing to take place.

There is something fundamentally wrong with a system which takes three and a half years to examine alleged misconduct.

Ms. Anjum admitted all the allegations and seems genuinely repentant.

What is far more serious is how it was possible for a supervisory social worker with seventeen years experience to be able to skip appointments and falsify records over a period of three months without anyone noticing?

This was at the time Children’s Service had slumped from a ‘good’ Ofsted rating to ‘inadequate’.

The unspoken question is how many other cases, possibly more serious than this, have yet to be revealed?

Under Mayor Biggs the London Borough of Tower Hamlets has become a black hole from which no information ever escapes. Sure, lots of PR nonsense is ejected from the Town Hall, all of it painting a rosy picture but that is not what residents want to hear.

Until such time as radical change takes place in Tower Hamlets, an election, another visit from the government’s commissioners, a whistleblower leaking to the media, more allegations of corruption surfacing, we can only wonder what really goes on in the Labour administration and how our borough is really run.

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