A new management team charged with turning around Doncaster Council’s troubled children’s services has won the backing of an independent expert.
Peter Kemp, chair of Doncaster Children’s Board, welcomed the appointment of the first permanent senior management team at the council for five years.
“I sense a growing level of optimism in parts of the organisation, primarily because of the strong professional leadership that’s now in place,” Kemp said. “There are a variety of managers in different parts of the organisation who are more visible and the lead member is more visible.”
Alongside Chris Pratt, director of children’s services, three assistant directors are now in post: Mil Vasic, covering commissioning and performance; James Kilner, learning and schools; and Vicki Lawson, responsible for children and families, who joined last week.
Since February Kemp has been overseeing progress against the council’s improvement plan for children’s services. He said the arrival of the new team was “a very important step” after a series of interim appointments.
The team has been charged with addressing the “fundamental weaknesses” which remain in the organisation, as highlighted by an internal report in April.
Doncaster Council’s children’s services has been under government intervention since 2008, when an annual performance assessment by Ofsted rated its overall performance and capacity to improve as “inadequate”.
Former communities secretary John Denham imposed a separate intervention order on the council in April 2010 after an Audit Commission report found the organisation was not fit for purpose.
Kemp, former director of social services at Durham Council, gives a progress report to Doncaster every two months.
A revised improvement plan, published in April, identified positive developments. They included strengthening of the local safeguarding children’s board and the allocation of a social worker to all children in care and those subject to a protection plan.
However, it found persistent weaknesses remained in multi-agency working and the lack of a performance management culture.
Kemp said these were now being addressed by the new management team, bolstered by a strong vision for the future.
“There are serious problems in Doncaster around domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, anti social behaviour and low aspirations,” he said. “Partners are committed to a long-term goal of improving the quality of life for children in local communities.”