A commissioner’s report into the future of North East Lincolnshire’s failing children’s services is set to be handed to the government.
The council could be temporarily removed from control of them depending on the recommendations. It comes after a damning Ofsted report labelled them ‘inadequate’ and warned that children were put at risk.
The Department of Education named Peter Dwyer to look into the state of the borough’s services in January. He will have the power to issue orders to the council on how to rapidly improve its services, with his report was due to be submitted by the end of March.
Council leaders promised to fully co-operate with the report, and say improvements were already being made. A new cross-party scrutiny group was set up to address the issues.
The government notice earlier this year said: “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.”
The Labour group called for the resignation of cabinet members over the issue at this month’s full council meeting. Opposition leader Councillor Matthew Patrick said the Ofsted report had been “the darkest months for this council”.
Conservatives defeated the motion, arguing that services had already been in poor shape when they came to power. Leader of the council Councillor Philip Jackson said the authority was working hard to turn them around.
“A lot of local authorities’ children’s services have been going into stormy waters over the last two years. An improvement plan was put into place in 2019, but this was frustrated by the Covid pandemic,” he told the meeting.
“This led to an increase in referrals up and down the country. It made staff recruitment more difficult, making us overly reliant on agency workers. Face-to-face meetings became almost impossible during this time.
“The very first meeting I had with the Chief Executive the morning after the 2019 election was about the state of the children’s services.”
New social workers have also been hired, audits have been increased and a new deputy director has been appointed.