No takeover for Norfolk County Council’s ‘inadequate’ children’s services department

Norfolk County Council's children's services department will not be taken over, but Essex County Cou

Norfolk County Council's children's services department will not be taken over, but Essex County Council has been directed to advise the authority. Pic: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Norfolk's 'inadequate' children's services department will not be taken over - but the government has directed Essex County Council to act as advisor to help turn it around.

The county council has also been warned it has 'one chance left to deliver' so the service is no longer failing vulnerable children.

And one Norfolk MP has said he would 'actively welcome' a takeover if the department does not improve.

In December, then prime minister David Cameron said poorly performing children's services must improve or be taken over by high-performing authorities, experts and charities.

Essex County Council's Dave Hill, was commissioned to put together an independent report into Norfolk.

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His report, written in March, concludes he does not see merit in an external organisation running children's services on behalf of Norfolk.

But, he did make four recommendations, including a need for the senior management team to get external coaching and mentoring, because Mr Hill was concerned about the 'focus and pace of leadership'.

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He said Norfolk had been too 'insular' and should look for support to Cambridgeshire and Suffolk.

He warned: 'The key challenge now is how to make further progress with focus and pace. There is only one chance left to deliver, the basics are in place, but support, challenge and assistance will be required to complete the journey.'

The government has appointed Essex County Council to advise over delivering the recommendations.

The report was delayed because of purdah rules around the EU referendum. Michael Rosen, director of children's services at County Hall said a subsequent Ofsted letter in July showed progress made, while initiatives, such as a proposed tie-up with Bernardo's, were in train to address concerns.

He said he was pleased the department would not be taken over. He said that would have further disrupted efforts to improve the lot of vulnerable children.

Norman Lamb, North Norfolk MP,, who has been unhappy with the council's actions over the Parker review - a still unpublished report into allegations about the treatment of foster carers - said he agreed with Mr Hill's conclusions, including that this was Norfolk's final chance.

He said: 'I would actively welcome a takeover if they cannot satisfy me and others that they are moving in the right direction.'

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