A local authority involved in the care of Logan Mwangi, the five-year-old boy who was murdered by his mother, her partner and his stepson, spent more than £1 million on social workers in the year the child was killed, it turns out.
Bridgend county borough council in South Wales spent 1.1 million pounds on social workers in 2021/22 compared to £166,000 the previous year. So far this financial year it has spent more than £800,000.
The way social workers and other professionals handled Logan’s case in the months leading up to his death in July 2021 is being examined as part of a children’s practice review into the tragedy, which is expected to publish its findings in the autumn.
The Welsh Tories, who obtained the figures, said they did not know if staffing issues were a problem, but said the council’s reliance on temporary workers was of great concern.
Logan’s stepfather, John Cole, and mother, Angharad Williamson, were jailed earlier this year for at least 29 and 28 years respectively. Cole’s teenage stepson, Craig Mulligan, was detained for a minimum of 15 years.
Their trial at Cardiff crown court heard that in the months before Logan was killed, he largely disappeared from the sight of the authorities, with his family using the Covid pandemic as an excuse to lock him in the “dungeon” of his small, dark bedroom.
It also emerged that Mulligan, who had been in council care, was moved into the family home five days before the killing, in a decision prosecutors likened to throwing a lit match into a powder keg. The jury heard that a foster family who had looked after Mulligan had allegedly warned a social worker that he had threatened to kill Logan, but claimed their fears had been ignored. The social worker refused to be told about these threats.
Tory shadow minister for social services Gareth Davies said: “We have known about understaffing in Wales’ social services for a long time now.
“Whilst we do not know whether this contributed to the failures that left Logan in an unsafe environment, the council’s reliance on temps is very concerning and does not inspire confidence.
“Children need a strong presence from the social services, but that cannot happen when municipalities are so dependent on the agency’s staff, because permanent placements are what lead to better outcomes, as someone can handle a case consistently that way. I believe our findings serve to support our calls for a Wales-wide review of social services.”
A Bridgend Council spokesman said: “It is normal practice for local authorities who are experiencing difficulties in obtaining and retaining social care staff to be able to engage temporary workers to meet statutory responsibilities to keep adults and children safe.
“The issue of social worker recruitment is an ongoing national concern affecting many councils across the UK, which has already resulted in a major joint recruitment effort by the Welsh Government and Social Care Wales.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We have set out an ambitious reform program to transform children’s services in Wales and have been clear that now is the time for action and not further review.
“We recently announced a £10m support package for social work students as part of our work to recruit more social workers. We are working with the sector to improve the recruitment and retention of social workers.”