Seven-figure investment to help ‘inadequate’ children’s services in Devon

Devon County Councillor James MInnes. Picture: Devon County Council

Devon County Councillor James MInnes. Picture: Devon County Council - Credit: Devon County Council

Nearly £4m will be invested to hire 30 full-time staff members to address serious failings that led to Devon County Council’s children’s services being rated inadequate.

Ofsted inspectors identified ‘serious failures’, with a very small minority of care leavers left living in unacceptable accommodation, of which senior leaders were not aware of.

They also identified that some children who have suffered chronic neglect and emotional abuse were being left with families for too long, and that there were eight areas of practice that need to improve.

Councillor James McInnes, cabinet member for children’s services, told a cabinet meeting his team were devastated by the inadequate report but that he was content they had since moved very quickly to make improvements.

Devon County Council’s cabinet unanimously approved a total investment of £2.2m in 2020/21 and £1.6m the following year for 30 full time equivalent staff to secure the improvements identified by the recent Ofsted report.

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The report of Darryl Freeman, head of service children’s services, said: “There are no quick fixes but what has changed is the seniority of management oversight and the explicit expectation on senior managers to take action to resolve young people’s circumstances.

“Weekly reports are in place for children in unregulated placements, children in pre-proceedings for longer than 12 weeks and children’s permanence plans.”

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The budget requirement is estimated to be £3.8m for the next two years to carry out the work, an increase of 30 full time equivalent staff, but the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to delay the recruitment to some posts.

Cllr Rob Hannaford, leader of the Labour group, said the extra investment into the service was clearly welcome.

Cllr Alan Connett, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said while the council had no choice but to invest, there were questions as to how they did not know some of the things Ofsted highlighted.

Cllr Frank Biederman, leader of the Independent group, added that the fact Cllr McInnes and senior officers were shocked and disappointed by the outcome gave him hope that there is the will to get this right.

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