Children’s service needs big change - report

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CALDERDALE’S under-fire Social Care Services is in the spotlight again after failing to improve as quickly as councillors expect.

Last year it was decided a Social Care for Children Review Group was needed following a disappointing performance by the service.

The review group met 12 times between November 15 and March 6 and took evidence from witnesses including front line social care staff and top level political and managerial leadership.

In his foreword to the report, Coun Colin Raistrick, chairman of the Children and Young People Scrutiny Panel, said he was writing following the maelstrom triggered by reports by Pricewaterhouse Coopers and by Ofsted.

He said improvement had taken place but “the rate of change had not been fast enough. Nationally, around 80 per cent of councils’ children and young people’s services are good or outstanding and it is not acceptable for Calderdale to be in the bottom 20 per cent...

“The council has good plans for service improvement. What appears to be missing is a ‘top-to-bottom’ strategy with the clear aim of becoming ‘outstanding’. Our recommendations should drive us towards the development of that strategy and commitment.

“That requires clear cross-party non-political and managerial leadership and significant cultural change. A minor adjustment to the way the council does things will not be sufficient to make the improvements necessary.”

Last year there were major changes of senior staff in the services. Calderdale’s head of children’s social care, Pixley Clarke, unexpectedly parted company with the council.

The director of young people’s services, Janet Donaldson, is also no longer with the council. Stuart Smith, an experienced troubleshooter, has now been brought in. The report will be considered on April 17.