DfE orders 'inadequate' council to hand children's services to neighbour

Tristan Donovan
Monday, October 30, 2017

The Department for Education has ordered Torbay Council to allow Plymouth City Council to take charge of its children's services department in a bid to improve standards.

A statutory direction issued to Torbay by the DfE states that Torbay must "co-operate with the development of a contractual arrangement with Plymouth City Council, which will deliver children's services on the council's behalf".

The decision follows a recommendation by Hampshire County Council chief executive John Coughlan, who was appointed by the DfE to act as children's services commissioner in Torbay, for Plymouth to be formally drafted in to help improvement efforts.

The DfE said its decision to accept Coughlan's advice was also informed by Ofsted's recent monitoring visit to Torbay, which found limited progress had been made.

The department's direction requires Torbay to reach a contractual agreement with Plymouth on the delivery of its children's services. It also reappoints Coughlan as Torbay's children's services commissioner and says Hampshire County Council, which has been acting as expert advisers to Torbay, will continue providing support to the local authority.

Ofsted identified multiple problems within Torbay children's services department in its 2016 inspection report including a culture of incident-led social work, high numbers of repeat referrals and underdeveloped early help services. Inspectors also found that child-in-need and child protection plans were of poor quality and a high turnover of senior staff.

In his report Coughlan noted that Torbay Council was "nervous" about the proposal but said Plymouth was the "best fit" as an improvement partner. But, he added, "even with the strongest DfE direction, Torbay's commitment to this recommendation will be one of the most critical success factors".