Government advisers will oversee improvement in two children’s services after commissioners concluded removing control of services from councils was unnecessary.
Reports on Norfolk and Dudley children’s services identified a mixture of improvements and ongoing difficulties for the councils, which have both been rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in the past year.
In directions issued by the Department for Education, on behalf of new education secretary Justine Greening, the councils were told to submit an improvement plan to the government and accommodate advisers who will monitor progress.
The councils were two of the first to come under the government’s increased scrutiny of “failing” children’s services.
It was announced in December 2015 that councils which had been rated ‘inadequate’ more than once, showed “persistent” failings and failed to show improvements within six months would have commissioners appointed and face being taken over by independent trusts.
Dave Hill, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and author of the report on Norfolk’s children’s services, said there wasn’t “merit in looking for an external organisation to run children’s services on behalf of Norfolk at this time”.
Hill said: “Norfolk continue to have significant challenges particularly in the service areas of looked after children and leaving care, but elsewhere, particularly in safeguarding, there has been demonstrable progress which is continuing.
“My view is that Norfolk will need dedicated support that is focused and directive; this is an alternative to a different organisational or governance model. There is only one chance left to deliver, the basics are in place, but support, challenge and assistance will be required to complete the journey.”
The report on Dudley’s children’s services by government-appointed commissioner Eleanor Brazil found it was not “necessary or desirable” to remove control of the service from the council.
“There is strong leadership and management in place and in my view the council have the capacity and capability to deliver the changes needed to achieve the required standard. However, this will take time and will not be easy,” Brazil said.
Brazil recommended that the council was supported with the work by the appointment of an improvement adviser.
As a result of the directions, both councils will have to develop and implement improvement plans that are approved by government advisers.
The councils will have to cooperate with and accommodate Department for Education advisers until the directions are removed by Greening.