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Commissioner to consider government takeover of ‘failing’ Wakefield Council services

The government has appointed a commissioner to review whether Wakefield Council should lose control of its children’s services after Ofsted inspectors found that they were inadequate across the board.

In a statutory direction issued to the council today, signed by civil servant Suzanne Lunn, the Department for Education said that secretary of state Damian Hinds was satisfied that the council is failing to perform to an adequate standard against its statutory duties.

He has therefore appointed Peter Dwyer—the former director of children’s services at North Yorkshire County Council— as the commissioner responsible for investigating the local authority’s current situation and assessing next steps; including a possible takeover of the struggling services “for a period of time.” His review will last for three months.

The Ofsted report, published in July after an inspection in June, rated the district council’s social care services for children as ‘inadequate’ across the board.

Lead inspector Neil Penswick said there are “serious and widespread failures” across the services, with Ofsted finding cases of children for whom risk had not been identified and where appropriate action had not been taken to help and protect them. There were also “serious delays” in achieving permanence for kids in care and ensuring their needs are met.

Wakefield recently appointed a new director of children’s services, who recruited a new management team and helped devise an improvement plan alongside partner agencies. But Penswick said the plan “is not based on a systematic evaluation of the current service weaknesses, or on a full understanding of the experiences of children.”

Responding to today’s statutory direction, Wakefield Council CEO Merran McRae said the authority welcomed Dwyer’s appointment and promised to cooperate fully throughout the process.

“Our priority is to ensure that services are brought up to the standard our children and families need and deserve and we are determined to deliver this,” continued McRae.

The chief executive added that changes are already underway to strengthen services: Wakefield is currently recruiting more family support and social workers and has made its senior team more robust, and an extra £3m has been added to the children’s services budget.

The commissioner’s report will run in tandem with the council’s current plans to make the improvements recommended by Ofsted.


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