Failing children’s services to face tougher measures

Prime Minister David Cameron will announce plans for local authority social services in England to face tougher measures, if they are found to be failing vulnerable children. 

The new regulations mean departments which are judged as inadequate by Ofsted will have six months to improve or face being taken over by high-performing councils and charities. 

Cameron is expected to say: “We, the state, are their parents; and we are failing them. It is our duty to put this right.”

Experts are already due to be sent to run Sunderland City Council’s unit, after Ofsted inspectors found ‘serious and widespread’ failings. Commissioners are also set to investigate Norfolk and Sandwell children’s services, with a view of taking them over within a year. 

In addition to the above councils, council’s failings have been exposed by a series of recent child abuse cases in Rochdale, Rotherham, Derby and Oxfordshire. 

In regard to the stricter rules, Education Secretary Nick Morgan warned there will be ‘much less tolerance of failure’. 

She said: "Ofsted will go in and inspect more quickly, particularly if there are reports either of inadequacies in the way that the department is being run or we obviously receive intelligence from whistleblowers.

"If necessary they will appoint a trust, which is a not-for-profit organisation, which could be run by something like a community interest company or a charity to run the services to make sure they get back up to the level that the vulnerable children who rely on the protection of these services deserve."

High-performing councils currently line up to take over their failing counterparts, include Hampshire, Leeds and Durham. Child protection experts and charities will be asked to form the trusts to take over the worst children’s services and will have powers to get rid of staff. 

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, welcomed the changes, maintaining that too frequently services had failed to protect children.

He said: ”When this happens, swift action is an absolute priority to prevent tragedies that shame us all.

"And we need to ensure that if tragedy does befall a child, that we then learn the lessons from serious case reviews, something that year after year is not done."

Javed Khan, Barnardo's chief executive, said: "There must be options, where it is best for the child, to use the expertise of the voluntary sector to complement those already in place.

"We want to work with local authorities and others in local communities to ensure the best outcomes for children."