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County takes lead on borough's children's services improvement

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Essex CC is to “lead and direct” the improvement of Barnet LBC’s children’s services, under a government direction published today.

Education secretary Damian Hinds has accepted the recommendation of commissioner for children’s services in Barnet, Frankie Sulke, that the council should receive “intensive peer support” from a council rated ‘good’ by Ofsted.

The direction says Essex is expected to lead Barnet’s improvement programme in areas of practice judged ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in July.

Essex will chair Barnet’s improvement board and oversee the development of a “robust” improvement plan, the direction says.

It will also provide “leadership, support and practice advice”, as well as training for the council leader, cabinet member for children, chair of the corporate parenting panel and children’s services staff.

Essex will also give the Department for Education regular updates on progress.

Ofsted inspectors last year identified widespread and serious failures in Barnet’s children’s social care services and “a legacy of widespread poor practice”.

Reuben Thompstone, chair of Barnet’s children, education, libraries and safeguarding committee, said he welcomed the commissioner’s report.

He added: “We welcome the recommendation that the leadership of the improvement programme should be led and directed by Essex – a local authority with a proven track record in practice improvement.“

Croydon LBC has also been ordered to develop intensive peer support arrangements with Camden LBC over the next three months, under a direction published today.

The education secretary accepted the recommendation of Eleanor Brazil, who was appointed children’s commissioner for Croydon in September last year.

In a report published today, she said it would take up to two years to improve services to the required level.

She added: “At this time, I believe the council should retain responsibility for managing children services and should be given time to drive the improvements forward.

“However, I do not consider that they have the necessary capacity and expertise within the service, to undertake this effectively and quickly without support.”

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