Norfolk County Council vows to improve after third damning Ofsted report

Sheila Lock, who has been appointed as the interim director of children's services at Norfolk County Council.

Sheila Lock, who has been appointed as the interim director of children's services at Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Supplied

A new Norfolk County Council director has vowed to improve Norfolk's Children's Services following another critical Ofsted report.

Sheila Lock, the new interim director of Children's Services, has spoken out following the inspection which rated the county's services to Looked After Children as 'inadequate'.

It comes after Edward Timpson, parliamentary under secretary of state for children and families, warned of Government intervention if the county council does not 'secure rapid and sustainable improvement.'

In a letter to the council, Mr Timpson acknowledged that the authority had 'taken prompt action to secure improvement'. However, he said three separate Ofsted reports over six months suggest 'widespread and systemic problems across Children's Services.'

Ms Lock said: 'Ofsted and the Government have voiced their concerns about the performance of this department and they are right to do so because we need to do better by children, young people and families in Norfolk. Our performance isn't good enough and we must do something to change that.

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'Improving services for Norfolk children and families is the reason why I am here, and I am certain that by pulling together, services can improve. We must all focus on getting the basics right and leading, managing and providing services well.

'The improvement starts with making sure we have solid foundations and our services and support are effective. By doing this we can make sure the additional £16.5m investment in Children's Services promised by the cabinet is used in the most effective way possible and makes the biggest difference for families.'

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Ms Lock said she will focus on getting the basics right, tackling performance in the department, building successful partnerships with other agencies and organisations and delivering effective leadership and management across services.

Ofsted inspectors visited the county in July and although they found some examples of good quality social work, which was 'making a discernible difference to improve the lives of children and young people,' they said this was inconsistent across the county.

James Joyce, cabinet member for safeguarding children at Norfolk County Council, said: 'We want the absolute best for Norfolk's children and young people, and I know that in the past Norfolk did not provide the highest standards of service. Change is happening now.

'Since we came into office at the end of May, we have been working together to make sure families in Norfolk get the service they deserve.

'It is now time to move forward and press ahead with making immediate improvements.'

• For a full interview with Shiela Lock, see tomorrow's paper.

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