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Somerset removes interim director of children's services

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The interim director of children’s services at Somerset CC has had his contract terminated, as the local authority anticipates ‘inadequate’ Ofsted ratings for some local children’s centres.

Chief executive Patrick Flaherty (pictured) has announced Peter Lewis is no longer working for the authority.

Mr Flaherty said that while there had been improvements in children’s services over the past 18 months, following an “inadequate” Ofsted report from a protection of children inspection in 2013, they were “not enough”.

The decision to terminate Mr Lewis’ contract also follows recent announcements that the council is closing two children’s homes due to failings in the standards of care provided, poor management and safeguarding issues.

Mr Flaherty said the local authority had “invested heavily in the service, financially and in terms of time and effort”, including the appointment of Mr Lewis. In August, Somerset CC defended pay arrangements for Mr Lewis after newspaper reports suggested he was earning £318,000 a year.

“There have been improvements over the last 18 months but not enough,” said Mr Flaherty. “I have been in post for six months and I have not seen the kind of progress I expected in light of our investment and the priority we have given the service.”

He added: “Preliminary findings from an Ofsted inspection into children’s centres in Taunton are also disappointing and likely to result in an ‘inadequate’ rating.”

Mr Flaherty said that because Mr Lewis’ role was temporary, there would be no additional costs to the council for terminating his contract. There would be no pay-off or pension contribution costs, he said.

“I believe now is the time to be decisive, move forward and give fresh impetus to improvements to the support we give to vulnerable children,” said Mr Flaherty.

He said he would take over the directorate on a temporary basis but added he intended to appoint another interim director of children’s services before appointing someone permanently. The position is being advertised.

“Looking after children in our care has been, and will remain, of paramount importance to this council,” said Mr Flaherty.

“I know there is a huge amount of good work going on in children’s services, done by many dedicated staff working long hours doing what is an incredibly difficult job. We look forward to welcoming a new director of children’s services on a permanent basis and working with them to achieve the improvements that all of us want to see.”

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