Government intervenes after Ofsted finds serious child protection weaknesses at council

By Neil Puffett

| 13 November 2018

The Department for Education has announced plans to improve children's services at a troubled council after Ofsted inspectors warned of rising caseloads for social workers have resulted in children being left unprotected.

Children's services in Northamptonshire were rated as "inadequate" in 2014, but were upgraded to "requires improvement" in 2016. Picture: Northamptonshire County Council

Education Secretary Damian Hinds and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government James Brokenshire have written to the leader of Northamptonshire County Council after a "focused" check on provision by Ofsted found significant deterioration in services in the past two years.

Children's services in Northamptonshire were rated as "inadequate" in 2014, but were upgraded to "requires improvement" following Ofsted's most recent full inspection in 2016.

The council had been planning to launch a limited company to run children's services as part of efforts to improve provision, but abandoned the plans in August due to uncertainty around the future of the council prompted by a financial crisis that resulted in emergency spending limits being imposed. The Department for Education had committed £4m towards the cost of the children's services company.

Hinds and Brokenshire announced that, as a result of Ofsted's findings, they are "minded" to appoint Malcolm Newsam as a children's services commissioner in order to try to turn things around.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: "We must make sure that vulnerable children and families are kept safe and instead of waiting for failure, we can prevent it by acting quickly to intervene where concerns have been raised about the quality of care.

"Appointing a commissioner for Northamptonshire's children's services will help stabilise and improve the support for the children and families who need our protection."


Two commissioners, Tony McArdle and Brian Roberts, were previously appointed in May to oversee services across the entire local authority, following the discovery of serious failings and financial problems.

The government said the appointment of a specific children's commissioner will "build on their initial work and provide additional support and expertise to tackle Ofsted's concerns".

A new director of children's services, Walter McCulloch, was appointed in August, following the departure of Lesley Hagger.

Lincolnshire County Council has also been appointed to provide peer support to the council as one of the Department for Education's Partners in Practice.

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