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  1. ITV Report

'Massive shake-up' of children's services in Leicester after Ofsted inspection

There is to be a 'massive shake-up' of children's social care services in Leicestershire, as City Mayor Peter Soulsby acts on information brought to light by a recent Ofsted inspection.

The watchdog spent four weeks inspecting the services at the start of this year, and is due to publish its report later this month. But Leicester City Council says its own findings mean it has had to act now, so immediate improvements can be made.

The City Mayor said Leicester's vulnerable children had been unacceptably put at risk Credit: ITV News Central

A review of front-line social workers was carried out last summer, which resulted in more than 30 leaving the authority. Sir Peter Soulsby said during that time vulnerable children were put at risk because they weren't allocated the social workers they needed.

Following this 'poorly-managed review', a new director of children's services was appointed. The City Mayor said she and her assistant identified the problem and moved quickly to bring in extra staff to be allocated to ensure all vulnerable children were helped.

But he added that, although changes had been made, the serious failings that had taken place within the service still needed to be properly addressed.

Sir Peter Soulsby will take over the children's services Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Archive/Press Association Images

So she has now been removed from her post, and Sir Peter Soulsby will now take the lead on services for children and schools. Assistant city mayor Cllr Vi Dempster leaves the council’s ruling executive with immediate effect.

Fortunately we were able to very swiftly deal with the most serious issues we uncovered, and under the leadership of the new director the service is already improving.

However, a botched review and inadequate leadership have resulted in a situation where children have potentially been put at risk and this cannot be tolerated.

The full scale of the problems within the service were laid bare when we received Ofsted’s draft report last Tuesday (3 March), and this is unacceptable.

I will now be taking personal responsibility for children’s social care and for ensuring that all members receive accurate information on this vital service which, it is clear, we have not had before.

– Sir Peter Soulsby

An Improvement Board is being established which will monitor the progress of the council’s improvement plan, which is currently being developed. It will include senior leaders from across the public sector, including health, Leicestershire Police and the Department for Education (DFE).

Frances Craven is the council’s new director of children’s services.

There is no doubt that children’s services in this city face huge challenges which have increased in recent times. However, that means we have to work even harder and smarter, to ensure children and families get the right service at the right time.

It’s clear that we still have much more to do, but I know that we have a committed workforce who want to do their best for the children of Leicester, and my aim is to make sure they are fully equipped to do that.

– Frances Craven

Key actions taken by the council since October include:

  • improvements to the gathering and reporting of performance data to ensure that managers, senior leaders and elected members can be given accurate information about the service;
  • an ongoing process to recruit social workers has been strengthened to ensure interviews take place quickly and induction allows social workers to start work effectively;
  • a training programme for middle managers is in place;
  • additional expertise has been brought into the team, with a former HMI Ofsted inspector helping to support performance improvement.