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New boss of Norfolk’s under-fire children’s services says there is no ‘magic bullet’ to turn around department

PUBLISHED: 16:30 21 November 2016 | UPDATED: 19:37 21 November 2016

Andrew Bunyan, the interim director of children's services at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

Andrew Bunyan, the interim director of children's services at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

Norfolk County Council

The new interim director of Norfolk County Council’s troubled children’s services department has warned there is no “magic bullet” to deal with issues which led to inspectors repeatedly criticising quality of care for vulnerable youngsters.

But consultant Andrew Bunyan, who today became the fourth director of the department since 2013 says there is a need to “get the basics right” to bring about improvement.

The former Derby City Council and Leicester City Council director has been providing mentoring to the council over the past six to nine months.

He has stepped into the director role following the resignation last week of Michael Rosen,

He will head up a department twice deemed “inadequate” by inspectors, during the hunt for a permanent director, but said he will not seek the permanent role.

Mr Bunyan said: “Children’s services is a complex environment and there is no magic bullet, no universal panacea.

“It’s very much about ensuring we have collaborative partnerships in place to deliver good quality services across the department.

“It’s not just social care, but ensuring all agencies are working together, whether that’s health, police, ourselves or voluntary agencies.

“What I am talking about is getting the basics right.”

Ofsted inspectors this month criticised the department’s strategic management, performance management and lack of consistent good services, saying managers needed to be more ruthless about pursing improvement.

Mr Bunyan said: “Ruthless is the word Ofsted has used and it’s not necessarily a word I would use.

“Yes, we have to be determined and yes, we have to use quality assurance.

“If we have got good practice on the frontline, that’s being appropriately supervised and we have got good quality assurance then we are halfway there and I want to ensure they are all in place.”

Norman Lamb, North Norfolk MP, who has been calling for the council to work more collaboratively with groups such as the Norfolk Foster Care Association, said: “I want him to express a really big ambition to radically strengthen this department, not incremental change. We need a radical step change.”

The council has not revealed how much Mr Bunyan will be paid other than it would be “the going rate” for a “complex and demanding” job.

The council’s policy and resources committee will next week hear that the children’s services department has a projected overspend of some £11m, of which more than £5m is residential costs for looked after children.

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