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Ofsted watchdogs begin inspection of Norfolk services for vulnerable children

PUBLISHED: 16:28 13 November 2017 | UPDATED: 16:28 13 November 2017

Norfolk County Council headquarters at County Hall. Photo: Steve Adams

Norfolk County Council headquarters at County Hall. Photo: Steve Adams

Watchdogs have returned to inspect the service which looks after Norfolk's most vulnerable children.

Inspectors from Ofsted arrived for a two-week inspection of Norfolk County Council’s children’s services department today.

Ofsted judged the department as inadequate in 2013 and again in 2015, so the council will want to demonstrate improvements have been made.

Another inadequate rating would almost certainly lead to government intervention. Two months ago, the government appointed a commissioner to improve Croydon’s children’s services, after it was rated as inadequate.

But bosses in Norfolk say considerable progress has been made since their last inspection and point to monitoring reports which described “a much greater sense of urgency”, better performance management and a leadership team which was “driving change”.

A spokeswoman for Norfolk County Council said: “We are pleased that Ofsted is now visiting the council, so that we can highlight the improvements and progress that have been made since our last encouraging monitoring visit.

“This is a two week inspection and we don’t expect the report for several weeks. We will share the findings of the inspection as soon as we can.”

The department has had six heads since the 2013 inspection. The latest Sara Tough, who moved from Dorset County Council to replace interim director Matt Dunkley, started at County Hall just a fortnight ago.

The council recently unveiled a £12m programme to reduce the number of children taken into care in Norfolk, saying early intervention was key to keeping them with families.

But the department came in for criticism earlier this year, after this newspaper published photographs of the inside of homes where young people leaving the care of the council were being placed by a firm called Sixteen Plus.

Graham Middleton, Conservative county councillor, said the service the young people received was “absolutely appalling” and said the council had to accept some of the responsibility.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said “the jury is still out” on the department and said he still has “significant concerns”.

The EDP has, through our Fighting For Their Futures investigation, been scrutinising services for the county’s children.

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