DfE gives council more time to improve after ‘inadequate' Ofsted rating

By Neil Puffett

| 09 November 2015

A council has been given more time to turn services around in the wake of Ofsted judging its children's services department ‘inadequate' twice in two years.

Somerset County Council's children's services department was rated 'inadequate' by Ofsted twice in the space of two years. Picture: Phil Adams

The Department for Education (DfE) said Somerset County Council now has until 31 March 2016 to implement an action plan made up of nine priority improvements.

A direction notice issued by the DfE states that, beyond that, it must develop a three-year plan to “sustain and further improvement of children’s social care functions”.

The decision to grant Somerset more time comes despite a pledge by Prime Minister David Cameron in June that more local authority children’s services departments will be taken out of council control in order to tackle failure.

A report published by Ofsted in March found there had been a “corporate failure” to keep children safe in Somerset, pointing to “continual churn” in the senior leadership team over the last 10 years – including eight different directors of children’s services (DCSs) – as an issue that has hampered improvement.

It had previously been rated inadequate in terms of child protection services in August 2013.

But a review of the department ordered by children’s minister Edward Timpson and carried out by Dave Hill, DCS at Essex County Council, found that progress has been made.

The council has earmarked £6m over the next three years to improve services, with plans to double the current number of social workers from 100 to 200, as well as investing in early help services.

It is understood around 100 staff from Essex spent time helping Somerset fast-track its recovery.

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