Watchdogs ready to return for full inspection of Norfolk’s services for vulnerable children

The service which looks after Norfolk’s most vulnerable children will be fully inspected by watchdogs later this year.

Ofsted judged Norfolk County Council’s children’s services department as inadequate in 2013 and again in 2015.

Inspectors have since made regular monitoring visits to the council, with the latest - centred on King’s Lynn - last month.

The findings were published today and Ofsted say next time, it will be a full inspection.

The department has had five heads since the 2013 inspection and is now advertising for a sixth, with current interim director Matt Dunkley ruling himself out of the post on a permanent basis.

The latest report praised his leadership team for “driving change with a real sense of urgency”.

Last November, department head Michael Rosen left the council just days after a monitoring report was critical of the pace of change.

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This time, the report states: “There is a much greater sense of urgency than there was nine months ago.”

Performance management, previously criticised as not being good enough, has improved and the views of children listened to, the report says.

The inspectors welcomed how a reliance on agency workers had been addressed.

Mr Dunkley said: “What made me happy about it was that they said ‘you are improving, you’re improving at the right pace, you know the things that need the most work. You’ve got a plan to deal with those and we’re happy with those plans’.”

However, Ofsted was, once again, critical of the service for care leavers. They said: “Formal planning for leaving care starts too late.”

Penny Carpenter, chairman of the children’s services committee, said she was delighted with the report - and said she was confident the council would be rated good within three years.

She said: “To where we were eight months ago to where we are now is completely different.

“We’ve got leadership, we’ve got pace, we’ve got a plan and that’s been proven out in this report by Ofsted.”

She acknowledged, with the council looking to save £125m over four years, including £23.5m from children’s service, things would be “really, really difficult”.

But she pledged the safety of children would not be compromised.

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