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Cumbria and Norfolk in children's services spotlight

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The Department for Education has censured Norfolk CC and Cumbria CC over their children’s services, issuing both councils with a list of required improvements. 

Ministers have issued Cumbria CC with an improvement notice and Norfolk CC with a “statutory direction”, a stronger form of intervention.

Both notices follow Ofsted inspections in spring and summer last year that found services to be “inadequate”.

Since its inspection Norfolk CC has brought in a senior team of five consultants with experience of turning around children’s services.

Interim director of children’s services Sheila Lock, one of the new team, told LGC: “It wasn’t a surprise to be given a statutory direction. The improvement work started some considerable time ago, and the direction won’t change the content of that plan.”

The council is recruiting new social workers and focusing on training and performance management, she said. It is also planning for a peer review.

Cumbria CC’s improvement notice asks it to make sure children’s social care services are “adequately resourced” and to appoint a new independent chair of its safeguarding children board. The council has already advertised for a new chair and recruited additional social workers.

Meanwhile, Calderdale MBC has submitted a report to the department about its progress since being issued with a statutory direction in October.

The report said the authority’s children’s services had undergone three external reviews. These were carried out by the LGA, the consultancy firm Core Assets, which was appointed by the department to carry out an assessment of progress, and the watchdog Ofsted, which was developing a new approach that involved helping councils to improve after poor inspection results.

“Overall the three reviews describe adequate or better services where no cases were considered to indicate children at significant risk,” the report, by Calderdale’s director of children’s services Stuart Smith, said.

However, Mr Smith added that local safeguarding partners had not yet “sufficiently gained a shared understanding of social care thresholds” and scrutiny was needed to make sure social workers did not again fall behind with assessments.

Writing for LGC, Mr Smith said: “It’s ‘so far so good’ and while we are making progress there are no indications of further direction or intervention from DfE.” For the full article see LGCplus.com/5067286.article.

The watchdog Ofsted has recently completed the first of its tougher new inspections of safeguarding and services for looked-after children, and is expected to publish the first reports on these in the next few weeks.

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