Children’s minister Edward Timpson has appointed special advisers to oversee the improvement of children’s services in Somerset.
In a letter to council leader John Osman, sent today, Timpson said he was “extremely concerned” the council’s children’s services had been rated inadequate in consecutive Ofsted inspections and will appoint advisers to oversee how the authority responds.
The council’s improvement plans will be assessed, Timpson said, and the advisers will report back to him in June to answer “whether Somerset has the capacity and capability to make the changes necessary for safe and effective provision”.
The team of advisers will be led by Dave Hill, director of children’s services in Essex.
In its report, published today, Ofsted found there had been a “corporate failure to keep children safe” in Somerset.
The watchdog criticised high numbers of agency staff being used to cover social work and managerial posts, which it found limited the authority’s ability to achieve an acceptable standard of social work practice.
It added that “continual churn in the senior leadership team” over the past decade had prevented the service’s development.
The advisers’ brief is to now examine the factors that led to the inadequate Ofsted reports, oversee the authority’s response and assess the quality of it’s improvement plans.
They will also review the authority’s leadership capacity and capability to drive improvements, and recommend to the secretary of state whether alternative delivery arrangements are necessary.
They will receive independent support, from outside the local government sector, when making their assessments on the authority’s capacity to improve and options for further intervention.
Somerset’s director of children’s services, Julian Wooster, said: “It’s a difficult time for children’s services and our partners in Somerset, but we are not alone – few authorities don’t have improvements to make.
“Children deserve better, the inspectors demand better and we, the county council and our partners, are all committed to safeguarding and improving outcomes for children in Somerset.”