The Department for Education (DfE) has ordered two London boroughs to bring in other councils to help fix their inadequate-rated children’s social care services.
Essex County Council is to play a greater role in leading improvements at inadequate-rated Barnet Council.
Croydon Council meanwhile has until the end of March to reach an intensive peer support agreement with the good-rated London Borough of Camden.
Potential to succeed
Barnet children’s services received an inadequate grade from Ofsted last July, prompting Essex’s executive director for social care David Hill to be brought in to chair the London authority’s improvement board.
Essex will now provide direction and intensive support to Barnet, which retains responsibility for its children’s services.
The decision to strengthen Essex’s role was recommended in a report by Frankie Sulke, who the DfE appointed as the children’s services commissioner for Barnet after its poor Ofsted rating.
Sulke’s report said the new approach has “good potential to succeed” provided Barnet engages fully with the direction and coaching it receives from Essex.
Long way to go
Councillor Reuben Thompstone, chairman of the children and safeguarding committee at Barnet, said: “We are pleased the report recommends that Barnet Council should retain control of children’s social care services, as well as highlighting how we have committed and dedicated staff at every level of the organisation.
“At the same time, we are in no way complacent and recognise that we still have a long way to go to bring our services up to the standard that children and young people deserve.
“With that in mind, we welcome the recommendation that the leadership of the improvement programme should be led and directed by Essex council – a local authority with a proven track record in practice improvement.”
Meanwhile Croydon Council has been given until the end of March to secure a deal to bring in Camden Council to help turnaround its services, which Ofsted deemed inadequate last September.
The move follows a report by Croydon’s children’s services commissioner Eleanor Brazil that warned the scale of change required in the south London borough was such that it would take at least 18 months to improve.
“It is clear that over a number of years there has been insufficient attention paid to the experience of social workers in Croydon council, too little understanding of what was happening within the service, and limited awareness of the negative impact this was having on children and young people,” she said.
Lack of expertise
Brazil said Croydon should, for now, retain responsibility for children’s social care but said it needed external support because it lacked the internal capacity and expertise necessary to deliver effective and quick improvement.
She added that Camden is willing to offer intensive peer support but if the two authorities fail to reach an agreement, alternatives for the future of Croydon children’s services will need to be explored.