More than 30 child protection departments in special measures
The children’s services departments of more than 30 councils in England are in special measures, an Observer analysis has revealed.
The survey comes amid claims that the child protection sector is experiencing a funding crisis similar to the one that engulfed adult social care two years ago. Of the record 31 authorities currently under some form of intervention, 21 – including Birmingham, Buckinghamshire, Norfolk and Tower Hamlets – are subject to statutory directions in which the education secretary legally requires an authority to take action. The remainder – which include Manchester and Surrey – have been issued with improvement notices.
That an increasing number of councils are subject to intervention has become deeply contentious. Many local authorities believe that the framework for monitoring performance, introduced in 2013, fails to recognise the complexities of child protection and is too quick to draw negative conclusions.
These concerns have prompted a rethink by the government, which next month will roll out a new framework, trialled in several pilot areas. It appears to be a tacit acknowledgement of research commissioned by the LGA, which has shown that councils deemed “inadequate” often deteriorate rather than improve. Watts said: “Inevitably good staff look elsewhere and it becomes more difficult to recruit. There’s often a leadership change at either a political or managerial level.”