Norfolk’s troubled children’s services likely to escape government takeover

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

Norfolk's troubled children's services looks likely to escape a takeover by the government, provided it can continue to show signs of improvement.

A report into the beleaguered department is understood to recommend to Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, that she leave it in the hands of Norfolk County Council, but keep a close eye on the rate of progress over the coming months.

It has been written by Dave Hill, a special commissioner who was sent in by Downing Street to assess the unit in December, amid concerns about the levels of care it was giving to Norfolk's most vulnerable children. At the time, officials hinted that the council department faced the prospect of being taken over and responsibility for children's services being passed to other agencies.

While the threat of a takeover will remain in place - and the education secretary can chose to act against the recommendations - it is not thought to be suggested at present.

In a message to staff on Friday, executive director of children's services Michael Rosen said that Mr Hill, who is currently director of children's and adult services at Essex County Council, had submitted his report and that members of the department had they had met officials from the Department for Education to the discuss next steps.

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'The report challenges us to accelerate the pace of improvement across all our services and we all agree that is essential,' he said. 'In response we discussed with DfE officials our shared commitment to ensuring external support and challenge assists us in rapidly and sustainably improving outcomes for children. Discussions will be continuing and I will keep you updated on significant developments.'

The Department for Education remains tight-lipped about when the full dossier might be made public, but the EDP understands that the secretary of state has been told a takeover is not the sensible option in the immediate future because the Norfolk department has improved. Significant mentoring of senior Norfolk County Council staff has been recommended, including regular coaching. It is also understood that the department is in talks with an unnamed voluntary organisations about former a 'strategic partnership' around children leaving care, in order to build expertise and knowledge. However, it would not be run by the voluntary sector.

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James Joyce, chairman of the children's services committee at Norfolk County Council, said: 'We are all aiming for the same thing... There is nothing I would take exception to in the way the report is written at the moment.'

What do you think about Norfolk children's services? Email

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