DfE orders council to consider alternative delivery of children's services

Joe Lepper
Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A council, rated as "inadequate" by Ofsted, has been ordered by the Department for Education to find an alternative way of delivering children's services.

Worcestershire County Council was handed the inspectorate's lowest rating in January due to "widespread and serious" failures in its support of vulnerable children, including those in care.

A direction notice appointing Cornwall Council's director of children's services Trevor Doughty as commissioner for children's services in Worcestershire was issued two months later.

But following a critical report from Doughty about the council's ability to turn around the service, the DfE has said Worcestershire must now explore alternative delivery models.

Doughty has been re-appointed as commissioner to work with the council to look at a range of options and put forward a recommendation by the end of December. He and the council are also asked to present a full business case for a new model by March 2018.

In addition, Essex County Council has been appointed as an improvement partner for Worcestershire.

A new direction notice from the DfE states: "Given the systemic and persistent failures in Worcestershire, and the need to increase the pace of change, [Doughty] has been re-appointed to work with Worcestershire County Council to undertake an assessment of options of the future delivery model for services in Worcestershire, overseeing its subsequent implementation, and to provide ongoing direction and assurance of service improvements ahead of transition."

The DfE has also asked Doughty to submit quarterly updates on the council's progress, which will be submitted more frequently "if the pace of progress is not sufficient".

Andy Roberts, Worcestershire's lead member for children and families, said: "Our priority is to make sure that long-term improvements are made to children and young people's lives in Worcestershire.

"We remain absolutely committed to that and we have already allocated an extra £5.1m into improving children's social care in Worcestershire this year.

"I am pleased that Essex County Council has now been formally appointed as our improvement partner. Essex will support us to deliver the improvements that we need to deliver."

Problems at Worcestershire highlighted by Ofsted in January also include a failure to recruit "good quality, permanent social workers and managers" and an inconsistent use of thresholds.

Child protection strategy meetings were failing to thoroughly discuss risks to children or involve all relevant agencies. The council was also found to be failing to consider and act on children's views or house care leavers in appropriate accommodation.

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