Government confirms Norfolk County Council could be stripped of children’s social services after “inadequate” Ofsted rating

Dave Hill of Essex County Council who has been brought in as a commissioner for Norfolk children's s

Dave Hill of Essex County Council who has been brought in as a commissioner for Norfolk children's services - Credit: Archant

The government has issued legally-binding instructions to Norfolk County Council after Ofsted branded its children's social services 'inadequate' for the second time in three years.

The statutory direction, which was signed yesterday, confirms the council could be stripped of its services to support the most vulnerable children in the county.

It follows an Ofsted report in October 2015 which rated child social services 'inadequate' overall. Its support for looked after children and care leavers received the bottom rating, although two other areas were rated 'requires improvement'.

The direction, issued by the Department for Education, orders the council to comply with any instructions from Dave Hill, the newly-appointed children's services commissioner for Norfolk, about improving its children's social care functions, as well as any similar orders from education secretary Nicky Morgan.

Mr Hill met councillors and staff yesterday, and a council spokesman said he will be 'reviewing the improvement of children's services in Norfolk and our capacity to make the changes necessary'.

The direction said: 'The council's failure to put in place effective improvement plans to address the weaknesses identified by Ofsted in 2013 led the secretary of state to issue a statutory direction in December 2013, requiring the council to take a number of steps to improve the quality of services.

'The action taken did not, however, result in service improvement to an adequate standard.'

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The direction outlines three steps Mr Hill is expected to take:

• To support and review the improvement of children's social care in Norfolk County Council;

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• To assess the council's leadership and management capacity, and its capability to drive forward the changes necessary to achieve adequate performance across all areas of the service; and

• To make a recommendation to the Secretary of State as to the most effective way of securing and sustaining improvement including, if

appropriate, alternative delivery models.

In a statement, Mr Hill said: 'I am completely persuaded by the commitment to improving their services for children shown by elected members and officers.

'Norfolk's leadership and I have agreed that we will work closely together over the next few weeks to focus on the critical service areas and define the way forward.

'I have experience of turning round failing children's services elsewhere and will expect Norfolk to secure improvement at pace over the next year. What really matters is the well-being of Norfolk's children. On this there is total agreement.'

He will issue his report by March 31.

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