Children's services to remain in Wakefield Council control

Children and young people's services which were rated 'inadequate' by Ofsted will stay under the control of Wakefield Council following a government review.

Wakefield Council chief executive Merran McRae
Wakefield Council chief executive Merran McRae

In a report published earlier this year, Ofsted found “serious and widespread failures” in which appropriate action had not been taken to help and protect children.

The council conducted a review of the service amid the possibility it could be taken over by the government or a private trust.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

But a report published today (Thursday) by independent commissioner Peter Dwyer – backed by Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families Nadhim Zahawi – said the service should remain under the council control.

Summarising Ofsted’s earlier findings, the report said: “Whilst areas of good practice exist, dangerously high caseloads, limited management oversight and restrictions to the quality of strategic analysis and financial decision making were apparent.

It added: “The lack of progress in tackling these significant issues should not be viewed as the responsibility of any individual officer or member.”

It said the council had now responded “robustly and at considerable pace” to Ofsted’s findings.

The report, published following a three-month review, said: “Improvement work had been initiated in advance of that report, initially by the previous director of children’s services and then accelerated by the new director and chief executive.

“Significant, additional financial resources have been immediately prioritised and are now approved in the medium-term financial strategy of the local authority.

“Additional resources have been well used to increase frontline social work capacity and as a result social work caseloads are reducing and management oversight is improving.”

The commissioner said it was “highly questionable” if taking the service out of Wakefield’s control at this stage would improve the situation and said it could “disrupt” the progress that had already been made.

There will be further reviews of the decision in six and 12 months’ time.

The commissioner’s said the reviews recognised the “scale of the task new leaders are tackling” but did not “reflect any caution” over the decision to keep the service in the council’s control.