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14.12.15

Failing children’s services face takeover

Children’s services judged inadequate by Ofsted will have to show ‘significant improvement’ within six months or be taken over by high-performing authorities, experts or charities. 

Under new government proposals, which will be outlined by the prime minister today (14 December), ‘sharper triggers’ will be brought into action so an emergency Ofsted inspection can be ordered where there are concerns about an authority’s performance. 

As part of the new plans, Sunderland children’s services will become a voluntary trust established by Nick Whitfield, the government-appointed commissioner for children’s services in the city, who also runs Achieving for Children, a community interest company owned by Richmond and Kingston councils.  Following a poor report in July that found widespread leadership failure in Sunderland’s children’s services, the trust will take over immediately to improve its performance. 

Additionally, new commissioners will be appointed to tackle failings in Norfolk and Sandwell. 

David Cameron said: “Children’s services support the most vulnerable children in our society. They are in our care; we, the state, are their parents; and we are failing them. 

“It is our duty to put this right; to say poorly performing local authorities: improve, or be taken over. We will not stand by while children are let down by inadequate social services.” 

He added that the measures, which also include a £100m drive to attract more high-calibre graduates into social work, will be one of the “landmark reforms” in this Parliament. 

More to improvement than simply changing structures

Alison O’Sullivan, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, who was recently interviewed in PSE, said that her organisation recognises that in some areas services are not yet good enough and it is right to draw on the expertise of the strongest authorities. 

“But there is more to improvement than simply changing structures. Parallel to this lies the need for increases in demand to be met with adequate financial resources,” she said. 

“Even with the closure of many children's centres and youth services we still face a funding shortfall and we risk losing capacity in the system to prevent problems from escalating to a point beyond repair. This must be urgently addressed, we owe it to our children, to our young people and to their families.” 

The education secretary, Nicky Morgan MP, will chair a roundtable in the new year with councils and major charities. There will also be an urgent review of Local Safeguarding Children Boards. 

The government will work with six of the country’s best local authorities – North Yorkshire, Hampshire, Tri-borough (Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea), Leeds, Durham and Richmond & Kingston – to give “academy style freedoms” to high-performing councils which will also have powers to get rid of staff. 

“We are creating new partnerships which will see experts working hand in hand to raise standards in struggling local authorities, we’re investing more to ensure the best and the brightest get into front line social work and we’re driving innovation across the system so that every child has the best possible start in life,” said Morgan. 

Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said there must be options, where it is best for the child, to use the expertise of the voluntary sector to complement those already in place. “We want to work with local authorities and others in local communities to ensure the best outcomes for children,” he said. 

Comments

Joship   14/12/2015 at 13:53

And so it begins...rob local authorities of funds, create conditions where failure is unavoidable then bring in the private sector, starring all those pies Isabell Trowler has her fingers in, to sort it out.

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