Watchdogs welcome ‘decisive action’ to accelerate improvement in Norfolk’s children’s services department

Matt Dunkley, the interim director of Norfolk County Council's children's services department. Pic:

Matt Dunkley, the interim director of Norfolk County Council's children's services department. Pic: Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Watchdogs have welcomed 'decisive action' to speed up improvement at the department which looks after Norfolk's most vulnerable children.

The boss of Norfolk County Council's children's services welcomed the findings of the latest visit of Ofsted as showing the department was moving in the right direction.

But he acknowledged it still had work to do if children and young people are to get a consistently good service - an issue raised by inspectors once again.

The department was rated as 'inadequate' by Ofsted in 2013 and 2015 and as part of the inspection regime, three inspectors revisited the council for two days at the start of this month.

The monitoring letter was published today and reveals areas of significant improvement since their last visit in November - when criticism was followed by the resignation of the department's then director Michael Rosen.

The department was subsequently headed up by interim director Andrew Bunyan and current interim boss Matt Dunkley.


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And the latest snapshot - which focused on Great Yarmouth - praised 'decisive action to speed up the pace of improvement', with praise for 'a new, more confident and visible senior management team providing a clear sense of purpose and direction'.

Performance management and quality assurance - key criticisms when Ofsted last visited - have been 'significantly strengthened', inspectors said.

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But they said it remained too early to see a consistent impact on the frontline and said the service most children and young people receive is 'not yet good enough'.

Mr Dunkley said: 'We still have challenges and things we need to do, but we knew that.

'When you are on an improvement journey, the key thing is to diagnose where the issues are.

'We have done that and we have a plan for dealing with them.'

'The thing I am most pleased about is that we have done the right things to improve the pace of change.

'It gives us backing for the changes we have made and we are beginning to see the fruits of those labours.

The EDP is, through our Fighting For Their Futures investigation, scrutinising services for the county's children.

You can read more of our stories here.

What the inspectors found

• 'Decisive action' to speed up improvement

• New, more confident and visible senior management providing 'clear sense of purpose and direction'

• Good morale

• Performance management and quality assurance 'significantly' strengthened

• Quality of support for care leavers still improving.

• Less drift and delay

• Regular reviews of children at high risk of sexual exploitation marks a 'significant improvement'

• The service which most children and young people receive is not yet good enough

• Almost a third of children do not have initial health assessments within 20 days of becoming looked after

• For children in need of help and protection, practice still too variable and ranges from effective to poor

• Caseloads still 'higher than ideal'

• More effective oversight and quality assurance mean council 'better placed than before' to identify and address problems

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