Extra £16.5m for Norfolk’s children’s services department

Norfolk County Council today agreed to put an extra £16.5m into tackling Norfolk's troubled children

Norfolk County Council today agreed to put an extra £16.5m into tackling Norfolk's troubled children's services department. - Credit: Sarah Cocke

An extra £16.5m is to be pumped into tackling Norfolk's troubled children's services department.

Norfolk County Council's cabinet today agreed the funding, which follows criticism of the department by watchdogs.

Council leader George Nobbs said his administration had inherited a 'crisis' in children's services, and, despite looming £182m cuts, the department needed the money to get back on track.

The £16.5m includes:

• £2.7m to bring in 40 frontline social workers, from an outside agency, straight away.

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• £2.3m for the two years after that for 40 permanent social workers.

• £10m to support children with special educational needs.

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• £1.5m to support schools, including through improvement advisors.

Inspectors from Ofsted recently criticised the way the council looks after vulnerable children and the support it gives to schools, which led to the county's MPs to call for a change in leadership.

Lisa Christensen, the former director of children's services quit and has been replaced on an interim basis by Sheila Lock.

She is currently in a similar role at Cardiff Council, but is now covering two days a week in Norfolk and will go full-time next month.

The new administration at County Hall, with a cabinet of Labour and Liberal Democrats, said dealing with the children's services issues was a priority.

On the support for schools, the council had already drawn up a strategy called A Good School for Every Norfolk Learner.

Ofsted acknowledged that was a 'clear statement of intent' to support schools, but that the strategy had not yet made a strong enough impact and lacked clear targets.

Mr Nobbs said: 'We must drive up the performance of children's services to help ensure Norfolk's young people get a consistently excellent standard of education whatever school they go to and wherever they live.

'We also want children and young people who come into our care to be able to rely on that care as being good.'

Despite the council facing a need to make £182m of cuts, Mr Nobbs said it was essential to commit the millions to children's services.

He said: 'We will not use the unprecedented financial crisis as an excuse not to invest in the future of Norfolk's young people.

'We will do whatever it takes to put our children's services right. We will not repeat the mistakes of the past.'

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