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Ministers intervene to improve Cornwall's children's services

Date:25 NOV 2009

The Children's Minister, Dawn Primarolo, has today announced that the Government will be intervening in Cornwall to improve its services to safeguard children.

The Minister wrote to the Council yesterday and proposed that the Secretary of State should establish of an Improvement Board and the appointment of an independent Chair for that Board, appointed by the Secretary of the State.

The Board will approve an improvement plan drawn up by the Council which must have regard to targets and requirements set by the Department for Children Schools and Families. DCSF will provide support and expertise to the council as required to plug gaps in their services.

Ministers said last month that they would take action in Cornwall following Ofsted's inspection of safeguarding and looked after children services. Since the inspection Cornwall has already taken steps to improve services, including appointing a new Director of Children's Services.

The Council has until 30 November to make representations on the proposals set out above. Ms Primarolo said: "No child should be failed by the services that are supposed to protect them and we always act swiftly where there is evidence that a local authority is failing to deliver children's services to an acceptable level.

"As I said in October, we will ensure that there are full and robust plans, which this intervention will deliver, to get to the heart of the problems and secure rapid and sustainable improvement. I will take whatever action is necessary to ensure the safety of children and young people in Cornwall and elsewhere. We have already intervened in several local authorities and I will not hesitate to do it again.

"Ofsted has rightly raised the bar on what they expect of children's services. The Government has intervened in five authorities expected to be judged to be 'performing poorly' this year - including using statutory powers where it was right to do so - and we are working robustly with each council to challenge and support them in turning around their children's services quickly.

"We are intervening in Cornwall's children's services following Ofsted's inspection of safeguarding and looked after children's services published last month. Yesterday I wrote to the council to inform them that the Government will be intervening to improve its services to safeguard children. I've explained that I'm minded to use powers to direct the establishment of an Improvement Board that will have an experienced independent chair who will approve a thorough improvement plan. I have in mind that the plan will have tough targets and requirements set by DCSF. The Chair will report quarterly to the Secretary of State; and DCSF will provide support and expertise to the council.

Kevin Lavery Chief Executive of Cornwall Council said: "Our priority is to keep Cornwall's children safe. We accept that we have serious problems in our children's services and have made it a priority to put that right. We want to work constructively with central Government and our partners locally to make a difference quickly and to ensure that improvements are sustainable over the long term."