January 17, 2022 9.00 pm

Commissioner to look into North East Lincolnshire’s failing child services

Council leaders pledged to make urgent changes

By Local Democracy Reporter

A commissioner has been appointed to look into North East Lincolnshire’s failing child services.

A damning Ofsted report found the running of the services to be ‘inadequate’. The Department of Education has named Peter Dwyer as the commissioner to look into the state of services.

He will report back to the government at the end of March on whether North East Lincolnshire will be temporarily removed from control of the borough’s child social care.

The newly-published government notice says: “North East Lincolnshire Council has systemically failed as its children’s social care services have been found to be ‘inadequate’ across all of the key judgements in the recent Ofsted inspection report.

“There is a presumption in cases of persistent or systemic failure that children’s social care services will be removed from local authority control, for a period of time, in order to bring about sustainable improvement, unless there are compelling reasons not to do so.”

Mr Dwyer will have the power to issue orders to the council on how to rapidly improve its services.

Council leaders pledged to make urgent changes after the Ofsted report was published in November, and say they will fully co-operate.

Leader Councillor Philip Jackson said at the time: “We recognise and accept Ofsted’s findings. But let me emphasise today that North East Lincolnshire Council is absolutely committed to continuing its journey of improvement and in doing so we will work with all concerned to keep our children safe.”

Councillor Ian Lindley, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, said: “We are determined to meet these challenges. We will not shy away from this, instead we will rise to it.

“The council is committed to work with the specialist Commissioner, alongside partners, to accelerate an improvement plan. This three-year plan, implemented in 2019, is underway and is already seeing positive changes – a fact highlighted in the report, with praise in a number of areas.

“We are not hiding from the issues that have been identified, nor are we making excuses. However, there is no doubt the pandemic did derail our plans significantly and improvements were and are being made. Now, with the support and help we will receive from the Commissioner, our partners and our dedicated and committed workforce, we will continue to grow and build this service back in a way that protects and indeed enhances the lives of our children. They are our future, and we have a responsibility to them.”

The council says that a shortage of social workers is also exacerbating the issues in its services.

North East Lincolnshire has nearly three times the national average of children being looked after by the council – 582 across the borough.

This number has doubled in the last five years, and is more than twice as high as neighbouring authorities.