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County council to take lead after ‘systemic failures’ in Barnet children’s services

A report into Barnet Council’s children’s services has recommended that Essex County Council take control as a leadership partner, after it found “systemic failures.”

The review was commissioned after an Ofsted report filed in July 2017 concluded that children’s services were ‘inadequate’ in all reported categories.

Following the initial investigation, Barnet’s children’s commissioner Frankie Sulke was brought in to run a further three-month review of services which found major issues with staffing and leadership, recommending that the neighbouring authority become an ‘improvement partner.’

The findings of the second report prompted the Department for Education to enforce the recommendation, meaning Essex will now oversee the delivery of the council’s planned improvement programme.

Sulke’s report said: “There is no doubt about the systemic failures that were found by Ofsted in Barnet. I have set out my view of the causes of the current failures and the action that I consider necessary to address those causes in order to secure sustained improvement for children, at pace.”

While it points out that the council has taken responsibility for the failures, it does suggest that leadership must be improved, and must focus on several key points, including changing the fundamental culture of child services.

Cllr Reuben Thompstone, chairman of the children, education, libraries and safeguarding committee at Barnet, said that, despite the criticisms of the authority in the report, the “safety and welfare” of children and young people was still a number one priority.

“We welcome the recommendation that the leadership of the improvement programme should be led and directed by Essex County Council – a local authority with a proven track record in practice improvement,” he added.

“We will continue to focus on delivering the comprehensive action plan we have in place and are absolutely committed to making the necessary improvements.”

Although Essex has taken control of implementing the future improvement programme, fundamental control of children’s services remains with Barnet Council.

Top image: Creatas

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