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‘Improve or be taken over’ – Prime Minister issues ultimatum to underperforming children’s services
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Prime Minister David Cameron has announced yesterday (14 December 2015) that, unless failing children’s services do not improve the manner in which they operate, they will be taken over by higher-performing charities, local authorities and child protection experts.
Those services which have constantly failed to operate to certain standards will be taken over immediately, and the implementation of stricter protocols mean that emergency Ofsted inspections of an inadequate local authority can be ordered to determine whether that service’s performance is poor or failing altogether.
The Prime Minister said today:
‘Children’s services support the most vulnerable children in our society. They are in our care … and we are failing them …Children are [being] let down by inadequate social services.Not a single child [will be] left behind.’
The new reforms reflect recent changes made to failing schools. In stark difference to the ad hoc manner in which underperforming services were taken over previously, a formalised academy-style system will be introduced under the reforms meaning that any local authority judged as deficient or inadequate by Ofsted must show substantial improvements within 6 months, or be taken over. Should no signs of improvement be made within those 6 months, a new ‘commissioner’ will be appointed, and members of high-performing local authorities, experts and charities will be brought in and consulted. Like schools which have been turned into academies in order to up their performance standards, children’s services which are taken over will receive more freedom to make amendments to the ways they function and their leadership abilities.
Along with news of the reforms to underperforming local authorities, further measures announced today included:
- over £100m will be spent in a bid to attract high-calibre graduates into social work;
- Education Secretary Nicky Morgan will chair a formal discussion in 2016 with local authorities and major children’s charities such as Barnardo’s and the NSPCC;
- a drive to recruit new trust sponsors from the charities sector to help and provide vital aid to failing children’s services; and
- an urgent review of Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards and centralisation of Serious Case Reviews in order to gather information and learn crucial lessons from serious incidents concerning children which have taken place.
Nicky Morgan was clear on the significance of improving the lives of at-risk children and providing excellent quality of care:
‘Every single day our most vulnerable children and young people are supported by dedicated, expert social workers – support that changes their lives for the better. But in too many towns and cities across the country, children in the most desperate of circumstances are being allowed to slip through the cracks. This simply isn’t good enough, and every single child failed is one child too many.‘We want to see excellent child and family social work at the heart of the child protection system … so that every child has the best possible start in life.’
With some underperforming local councils having already been taken over as a result of their persistent failures, and others now facing immediate take-over action due to their own inefficiencies, it is hoped that the standard of children’s social services as a whole is vastly improved by the new measures about to be put in place.