Lancashire County Council ordered to improve its failing Children's Services

THE Children's Services department at Lancashire County Council has been issued with an Improvement Notice six months after it was declared 'inadequate' by Ofsted.

Lancashire County Council's headquarters, County Hall
Lancashire County Council's headquarters, County Hall

The notice provides instructions on what the county council, which has allocated £4.6m for extra staffing for the service, must now do.

The county council’s performance improvement committee was advised this week that council leader Jennifer Mein had agreed details of the notice, which was issued on May 19.

It means the council must continue to work with an adviser – Tony Crane, the former Director of Children’s Services at Cheshire East Council – appointed by the education secretary.

The notice calls for:

• Robust performance management and audit information

• Management must oversee cases, especially those involving children in need

• Particular attention must also be paid to services for those leaving care

• The council’s Improvement Plan and progress records must be kept up to date, with the council expected to provide monthly reports to the Improvement Board

•The views of frontline staff, children and young people must be considered as new practice is developed.

Officers or advisers from the Department of Education will review progress at least every six months.

The council had known it was possible such a notice could be served.

If the Government had felt sufficient progress had not been made since the Ofsted report it could have ordered that outside agencies be brought in to take over the running of the service.

Coun Matthew Tomlinson, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “The Department for Education’s decision to issue an improvement notice represents the minimum level of intervention that can be placed on a council following an inadequate inspection and shows confidence in our ability to deliver the necessary improvements.

“However we understand the scale of the challenge and how important it is that the changes set out in our improvement plan are made quickly and effectively.

“Our plan shows how we are addressing the findings of the inspection report and progress made to date suggests we are on the right path.

“As we continue to develop it, the plan will set out a new vision for delivering the highest possible standards of care to children and young people across Lancashire.”

A report to the Performance Improvement committee also revealed the service will undergo two further external reviews over the next year. In October 2016, Bernie Brown, the Assistant Director of Children’s Social Care for Liverpool City Council will lead a regional team which will spend four days reviewing cases, referrals, assessments and practice.

In February next year the Local Government Association will facilitate a Safeguarding Peer Review.

The council has been told that the improvements must be achieved by the end of May next year or sooner.