Commissioner proposed for Northamptonshire children's services

To tackle growing concerns about how Northamptonshire County Council supports vulnerable children and families, the government has proposed the appointment of a commissioner to oversee improvements.

Local Government James Brokenshire and Education Secretary Damian Hinds have written to the council in a move designed to take swift and early action to improve its children’s services, following concerns raised by existing commissioners and Ofsted.

The two ministers are now ‘minded to’ appoint Malcolm Newsam as a children’s services commissioner, following Ofsted’s findings that the quality of services have deteriorated. Newsam is an experienced director of children’s services and has worked with many underperforming councils to oversee improvements with successful results. His appointment would follow that of Tony McArdle and Brian Roberts, the two commissioners appointed in May to oversee council services in Northamptonshire following financial issues.

Hinds said: “We must make sure that vulnerable children and families are kept safe and instead of waiting for failure, we can prevent it by acting quickly to intervene where concerns have been raised about the quality of care. Appointing a commissioner for Northamptonshire’s children’s services will help stabilise and improve the support for the children and families who need our protection.”

Brokenshire added: “Keeping vulnerable children safe is one of the most important duties local authorities carry out. Ofsted’s report highlights serious concerns about the current performance of children’s services in Northamptonshire and this cannot continue. We are taking action today by recommending a children’s commissioner joins the existing commissioner team at the Council. This will help to stabilise and improve the service so each and every child receives the protection they deserve.”

Northamptonshire County Council will now have the opportunity to make any representations to the Government on the appointment of a commissioner before a final decision, expected later this month. Since May 2010, 44 local authorities have been lifted out of intervention and have not returned – including Doncaster and Rotherham which were both rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted this year.