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Sandwell Council to lose control of 'inadequate' children's services

Sandwell | News | Published:

Children's services in Sandwell will be taken out of the council's control, after a government expert said progress has 'not been good enough'.

Eleanor Brazil was parachuted into the under-fire department in December as a commissioner following an 'inadequate' Ofsted ranking, and given a six-month watching brief.

Top level discussions are now under way looking at options for the future of children's social care in the borough after Ms Brazil submitted her recommendations – although a final decision is yet to be taken.

Last night the council revealed both options would see control removed from the authority's hands and handed to outside bodies.

The two options being considered are either to move children's social care to a voluntary trust with the council's co-operation, or to appoint an executive commissioner to oversee care.

The final decision rests with Minister of State for Children and Families, Edward Timpson.

Ms Brazil said: "During the last 10 years the council has made changes and invested resources into children's social care however progress has been intermittent and not good enough.

"Given the challenges ahead and the need for further improvement, I believe a fresh start is required to create impetus and deliver the robust and sustainable changes required."

In the report last year, Ofsted said there were 'widespread and serious failures that create or leave children being harmed or at risk of harm'.

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Inspectors wrote: "Leaders and managers have not been able to demonstrate sufficient understanding of failures and have been ineffective in prioritising, challenging and making improvements."

Council bosses said they are working with the Department of Education to ensure 'vulnerable children in Sandwell have the best possible support available' and are helping the DfE analyse both options in detail.

The decision on the future of children's social care will be taken by Mr Timpson once both options have been considered. It could be made as early as next month.

Councillor Simon Hackett, cabinet member for children's services said: "The most important thing is making sure that vulnerable children in Sandwell have the best possible support available – that's what this process is all about."

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"We're working with the DfE to make sure we find the right solutions to issues raised by the commissioner.

"This will put us in the best position for long term sustainable improvements to help support children in our borough.

Education bosses in Sandwell were rocked by the latest inadequate rating in June last year, and contested the findings of the report.

They insisted the department had improved since the first critical report in 2013.

Council chiefs subsequently laid out a two-year plan to turn around children's services, but Ms Brazil was appointed in December to drive through improvements.

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