Cameron promises takeovers will end child protection failures

HIGHLY rated children’s services departments in Yorkshire will be asked to takeover failing neighbours as part of a major overhaul of child protection set out by the Prime Minister today.

David Cameron.
David Cameron.

Leeds and North Yorkshire are among local authorities which will be part of teams, which also include child protection experts and charities, drafted in to improve standards.

Councils judged to be failing to properly protect children by watchdog Ofsted will be given six months to improve before a commissioner is put in charge who can bring in outside help.

The Government will push for more children’s services teams to be taken out of council hands and transferred to trusts in an echo of what happened in Doncaster last year following a string of critical reports.

Downing Street said the package of measures was designed to end the current “ad hoc” approach to dealing with child protection failings and put in a place a system that mirrors the way the Government tackles underperforming schools. David Cameron said: “Children’s services support the most vulnerable children in our society. They are in our care; we, the state, are their parents; and we are failing them.

“It is our duty to put this right; to say poorly performing local authorities: improve, or be taken over.

“We will not stand by while children are let down by inadequate social services.

“This will be one of the big landmark reforms of this Parliament, as transformative as what we did in education in the last.

“And it shows how serious we are about confronting state failure and tackling some the biggest social problems in our country.

“Together we will make sure that not a single child is left behind.”

The measures announced today include making it easier to trigger an emergency Ofsted inspection if evidence is provided by a whistleblower.

With many councils struggling to fill social work posts, the Government will make £100 million available to try and attract more the best graduates into the profession.

There will be a review of the workings of safeguarding boards and the way serious case reviews are carried out.

In addition to taking a role in failing councils, high performing authorities such as Leeds and North Yorkshire have also been promised more freedoms over the way their children’s services departments are managed.

Charities will be asked to sponsor children’s services trusts in a similar manner to the way bodies sponsor academy schools.

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC children’s charity, said: “Tackling child abuse is the greatest challenge of our generation. So an increased government focus alongside these reforms, to help reduce the risk of harm to vulnerable children, are very welcome.

“Child protection is often a huge and complex area but too frequently some services have failed in this crucial duty; When this happens swift action is an absolute priority to prevent tragedies that shame us all.

“And we need to ensure that if tragedy does befall a child, that we then learn the lessons from serious case reviews, something that year after year is not done.”

The highlighting of Leeds as a high performing authority represents the latest stage of a remarkable turnaround from five years ago when its safeguarding of young people was found to be “inadequate” by Ofsted.