The department working with Clydebank’s criminals devolved into the worst in the country, according to a scathing new report.

West Dunbartonshire Council’s (WDC) criminal justice social work services was found to have lengthy delays in getting residents on to community payback orders (CPO), with some flaws drifting on for years.

The Care Inspectorate found “poor and declining performance ... over several years”, particularly on CPOs and getting unpaid work orders started on time.

In the past three years, the number of unpaid work orders that took more than two months to start was the highest in Scotland.

And the number beginning within seven days fell from 70 per cent in 2013/14 to just seven per cent by 2017/18.

Council bosses said reforms are underway and they will work with the Care Inspectorate on their recommendations.

Inspectors went in during February and March, interviewing staff as well as 28 people sentenced to unpaid work or supervision.

They found WDC saw a sharp increase in the number of CPOs imposed from 2015/16, making it the third highest ranked local authority in Scotland and well above the national average.

But the department also had a number of staff changes and “significant restructuring”.

Read more: Extra staff for social work to combat delays in West Dunbartonshire

The inspectorate said a “culture of non-compliance with national guidance had been allowed to develop” at the service and they had been “slow to act decisively” to address concerns, including sheriffs who gave public dressing downs to social workers in court.

But it took almost a year after criticism by sheriffs before there was concerted action to tackle the decline.

The department was branded “weak” for:

  • improving the life chances for people subject to a CPO
  • assessing and responding to risk and need
  • planning and providing effective intervention
  • leadership.

With the Scottish Government pushing for a presumption against short prison sentences, the report concluded WDC is not ready.

It stated: “Given the issues highlighted within the report we are not currently confident the service will be able to respond effectively to any increases in workload.”

Peter Macleod, chief executive of the Care Inspectorate, said the department had been “candid” with the challenges.

He said: “While leaders had a grasp of what was required in order to build capacity for improvement and change, they were also realistic that transformative and cultural change was likely to take time.

“As a result of our discussions during the inspection, leaders were now better sighted on potential risks and priorities for improvement.

“The breadth and depth of the areas of improvement we have identified are likely to prove challenging, particularly for a new leadership team.

“Significant and meaningful engagement with, and commitment from, all staff groups and managers will therefore be crucial if leaders are to achieve positive organisational change.

“It is also instrumental to identifying and achieving intended outcomes for individuals, their families and communities.”

Read more: Court delay on Duntocher man who had £15,000 in crime proceeds

Inspectors said staff reported an “excessive volume” of work and there was little in the way of up-to-date policies or procedures for workers.

A spokeswoman for West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership said: “We would like to thank the Care Inspectorate for their time and expertise.

“As recognised in the report, action was underway to respond to key challenges in the service and we are now focussed on fully addressing all remaining recommendations from the inspection.

“A comprehensive action plan has been developed and shared with the Care Inspectorate, and progress will be reported publicly through our integrated joint board.”