The Department for Education has issued an improvement notice to an ‘inadequate’ council where relationships between the frontline and management had “broken down”.
Ofsted inspectors gave a damning verdict of Gloucestershire county council’s children’s services in June, where they found “serious concerns” about the integrity of senior leadership, and frontline staff raised an “unprecedented number” of whistleblowing concerns.
Last week the Department for Education told the council to improve or face being moved into “an appropriate arrangement” to successfully improve children’s services.
As part of the improvement notice, the department has appointed an adviser, with whom the council must work while it makes improvements.
The department will also review the council’s progress against its improvement plan at least every six months until the improvement notice is withdrawn, or the department steps up its intervention.
“These reviews may cover, but are not exclusive to: culture; performance; leadership, management, and governance; workforce and management oversight; early help; and the LSCB,” the notice said.
By the time the inspection was published in June, the council had changed the leadership of children’s services and said it brought in “top social work specialists” to lead its 500 staff. Alison Williams, director of young people and families at Prospects, was appointed interim director of children’s services, and Neelam Bhardwaja was hired in an interim improvement and operations director role.
The council said it had begun investing £9.2 million into the service before Ofsted visited in February and March.
Social workers had told inspectors they were “fearful of challenging or exposing poor practice” in the council, and inspectors criticised child protection services which had “deteriorated significantly” since the council’s previous ‘inadequate’ rating in 2011.
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