Government intervenes over city's 'at risk' children

MINISTERS have intervened in the running of children's services at another Yorkshire council after a surprise inspection found weaknesses needing urgent action.

Children's watchdog Ofsted raised a series of concerns about Leeds City Council's child protection arrangements after finding seven cases where youngsters were left at risk of serious harm.

Inspectors also found discussions over child protection strategies with other agencies did not take place in a "timely manner".

Now the Government has called on Leeds City Council to set up an improvement board with an independent chairman reporting directly to Ministers.

The move follows last week's announcement of Government intervention at both Rotherham and Doncaster councils after shortcomings in both authorities children's services were highlighted.

The new board at Leeds will be chaired by Bill McCarthy, the chief executive of NHS Yorkshire and the Humber and former chief executive of York Council.

Children's Minister Dawn Primarolo said: "Due to the concerns identified, and other issues across children's services in Leeds Council, I am keen to support the council by establishing a focused improvement board with a new independent chair. I am delighted to agree to the appointment of Bill McCarthy who will report to me and the council leader bi-monthly on progress.

"This will build significantly on action already being taken by the council to improve performance in its secondary schools, including plans – to be published by Leeds shortly – for delivering radical improvement in its most vulnerable National Challenge schools."

However, she warned that more action might be needed once the results of Ofsted's full inspection were published next month.

Leeds City Council joint leader Andrew Carter said: "I am pleased that we have been able to agree with the Minister specific action to support our improvement efforts here in Leeds."

Ofsted has identified areas of priority action needed to improve children's services in six councils, including Leeds, across the region after unannounced inspections were carried out this year. Doncaster's children's services were found to be inadequate in a routine inspection following the death of seven children known to the town's social services since 2004.