The government has ended speculation about the immediate future of Birmingham council’s children’s services, announcing a review of the troubled department.
The review, ordered by children’s minister Edward Timpson, replaces a planned Ofsted inspection, which the Department for Education recently warned would result in “further action” if no signs of improvement were found.
It follows a turbulent period for Birmingham council, which saw its child protection services rated inadequate in October.
Timpson revealed the news in a letter to Birmingham council leader Sir Albert Bore, writing: “I have concluded that a slightly different approach is needed from that envisaged in September. In short, rather than ask Ofsted to make an inspection of progress, I have asked for a clear report advising me on the council’s plans for change, considering whether they are sufficient, what alternatives might be appropriate and what decisions I may need to take to ensure that the right action is taken.”
The review will be carried out by Julian Le Grand, professor of social policy at the London School of Economics, with chief social worker Isabelle Trowler and Alan Wood, director of children’s services in Hackney.
The trio will report their findings to Timpson and education secretary Michael Gove, including the views and experiences of leading social care practitioners and directors of children’s services around the country.
The review will assess Birmingham’s plans for service improvement, test its assessment of the current situation in children’s social care and the capacity to drive sustainable improvement and advise the government on any alternative measures needed.
In July, Le Grand and Wood recommended outsourcing children’s services in Doncaster to an independent trust for a minimum of five years after finding “a culture of failure and disillusion” that “serves to obstruct every attempt at reform” within the service.
Peter Hay, director of children’s services at Birmingham, said he welcomed the review. “Our focus remains on taking the steps needed to improve services for our most vulnerable children. We will work with anyone who can help us to do that.”
Timpson said no decisions have been made about government action following the review or Ofsted’s next inspection. “Nor do I have a pre-determined view of the right next steps.”
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