The government has agreed to let Middlesbrough Council keep control of its children’s services to allow improvements to be made.
The education secretary has approved the move, which was recommended by Middlesbrough’s commissioner for children’s services, Peter Dwyer.
Mr Dwyer was appointed following an Ofsted inspection in November 2019, which found the department to be inadequate in all four judgement areas.
The commissioner has now welcomed initial progress made under an improvement plan and outlined what the council must focus on in the next stages.
‘It is recommended that the local authority and its partners are afforded the opportunity to further enhance their improvement activity to date,’ the report states.
‘To be given the chance to create the conditions where over time we will increasingly see the improvements in practice which are needed.’
The mayor of Middlesbrough, Andy Preston, said: ‘I made clear after the Ofsted report that we had no excuses for letting Middlesbrough children down and need to repeat that today.
‘I’d like to thank the commissioner for his work – his expertise will be invaluable for our dedicated staff in the months ahead,’ added Mr Preston.
‘Retaining control of the service is the result we wanted, but we know how much work is still required. This is the first significant step on a long road of recovery for the council.
‘The town’s children are our number one priority. We’ve got big ambitions for Middlesbrough and those ambitions are all about the future of our young people.”
Mr Dwyer spent several weeks observing and interviewing council staff, as well as speaking to elected members and key partners.
He commended the council’s political leaders and senior officers for the way they responded to the Ofsted feedback, witnessing a ‘full acceptance of responsibility and a recognition for change’.
Middlesbrough has one of the highest rates of children requiring care in the UK and the percentage of the council’s budget earmarked for children’s services has increased from 13% to 35% since 2010 as government funding has reduced.
Mr Preston has also thanked his deputy, Cllr Antony High, who took on the role of executive member of children’s services following the Ofsted report.
The commissioner’s report noted how Cllr High offered ‘considerable passion and informed energy’.
‘Cllr High has worked his socks off and wants the very best for children across Middlesbrough,’ added the mayor.
‘I’m grateful to him for stepping up to the plate and have every confidence he will continue to work effectively alongside our senior officers, the commissioner and our partners.’
The commissioner will continue to work with the council for a number of days each month and will submit further reports to the government in November and May 2021.
Photo Credit – Pixabay