DfE issues new order to Northamptonshire paving way for children’s trust by 2020

Government direction comes as troubled county faces calls to make serious case review public

Department for Education

The government has published an updated statutory direction that paves the way for children’s services in Northamptonshire to be transferred to an independent children’s trust by July 2020.

The Department for Education notice, issued yesterday, cements an announcement made last month that the troubled East Midlands council would relinquish control of children’s social care ahead of the county’s division into two new unitary authorities.

The Conservative council has suffered from longstanding financial problems and twice declared de facto bankruptcy.

Its children’s services were found to be in “significant decline” when Ofsted carried out a focused visit last October.

Northamptonshire must work “towards the establishment of a wholly-owned council company for the delivery of children’s social care services, transferring operational control from July 2020, with provision to transfer commissioning arrangements to any new unitary councils,” the new notice said.

Children’s commissioner Malcolm Newsam and improvement partner Lincolnshire council would retain their roles in supporting progress.

Transparency calls

The news came as Northamptonshire faced calls for transparency around the findings of a serious case review. Two such investigations published last week laid bare the chaotic state of children’s services at the council.

Northamptonshire safeguarding children board has said it does not intend to make public a third review into the serious abuse and neglect of a boy, due to concerns that doing so would not be in the interests of children involved.

Yesterday, the shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne, who has called for the resignation of Northamptonshire’s council leader Matt Golby, asked children’s minister Nadhim Zahawi to intervene and ensure that the report was published.

But Zahawi said a copy of the serious case review had not yet been seen by the independent Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel, which examines any decisions not to publish findings.

“The panel has not yet received the draft serious case review in relation to child JL,” Zahawi said. “Once the draft serious case review is received, the panel will consider carefully if there is any justification for not publishing the report.”

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