Timpson appoints private firm to tackle failings in West Berkshire

By Neil Puffett

| 27 August 2015

Children's minister Edward Timpson has appointed a private firm to oversee improvements at a children's services department following a damning Ofsted inspection earlier this year.

Timpson has given West Berkshire Council until 25 September to agree an improvement plan. Picture: Alex Deverill

A letter from Timpson to West Berkshire Council said the council must work with Exploring Choices, to agree an improvement plan by 25 September.

"The plan should drive continuous and sustainable improvement in the areas identified in the Ofsted 2015 report and the plan should be grounded in an understanding of the needs of children, young people and families," the letter states.

"Reviews of progress against the improvement plan will be conducted at least every six months and more regularly where appropriate.

“The council will work with the adviser until some such time that the Secretary of State is satisfied this is no longer required.”

The letter goes on to warn that if the council is “unwilling or unable” to comply with the improvement notice, or if ministers are not satisfied with the council’s progress at any stage, government may opt to intervene and “direct the council to enter into an appropriate arrangement to secure the improvements required in children’s services”.

Ofsted’s report into the state of children’s services at West Berkshire, published in May, concluded that a range of problems at the council “leave children being harmed or at risk of harm”.

Inspectors found that many social workers and managers in key social work teams in West Berkshire are agency staff and turnover is high.

This resulted in children “experiencing unacceptable disruption, uncertainty and inconsistency”.

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