Norfolk’s MPs have called for a crisis meeting with the head of the county’s children’s services department over its safeguarding of Norfolk’s most vulnerable children.

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It follows a damning Ofsted report which rated the child protection service at Norfolk County Council as inadequate in all areas after finding an “inconsistent and patchy” provision.

The Ofsted assessment took place from January 14-24, with inspectors scrutinising 119 cases of the 5,500 children currently being dealt with by Norfolk children’s services either through child protection or as looked-after children.

The authority admitted the situation was “not good enough” but insisted it had made improvements since an inspection in summer 2011 judged the service adequate with some inadequate areas.

All Norfolk’s nine MPs have called for a swift response from the council to ensure the county’s young people were not being put at risk.

In a joint statement, the seven Conservative MPs – Elizabeth Truss, Keith Simpson, Henry Bellingham, Chloe Smith, Brandon Lewis, Richard Bacon and George Freeman – said they were “disappointed” by the findings of the report, adding: “It is encouraging that the report finds child protection in some areas to be at a higher standard. What is required now, however, is for Norfolk to achieve and maintain an outstanding level of service across the board.

“We will seek a meeting with the director of children’s services to discuss this report’s findings and the urgent implementation of Ofsted’s recommendations. We will then work with Norfolk County Council to monitor the progress of improvements.”

The joint-statement has been welcomed by the county council’s newly-elected leader, Bill Borrett, who said the issue has been his “number one priority” since taking the reins at County Hall.

Mr Borrett said: “I’m glad the MPs are all interested as their help and support is always extremely valuable.

“We must do whatever it takes and as soon as possible. I’m comforted to hear the indications in the Ofsted report that there are pockets of good practice.

“The key challenge is getting that good practice spread across the whole piste, rather than pockets of it.

“There is nothing more important for us right now.”

Mr Borrett said he would soon be attending a meeting with the Department of Education and the county council’s director of children’s services, Lisa Christensen, and cabinet member for children’s services, Alison Thomas.

Simon Wright, Lib Dem MP for Norwich South, called the report “very troubling” and called it “the worst possible rating Ofsted can possibly give to a service”.

He said: “The chief executive [of the county council] is now going and a new person is coming into play. For that new person, one of the first things on their desk should be this report. I hope it is someone who will get to grips with this.

“There were some aspects of work that were quite positive and give us some glimmer of hope that things can be improved. It’s not that everything the authority is doing is bad. Let’s take that good practice and make it consistent and normal practice.” Earlier this year it was confirmed that council chief executive David White would leave his post after he recommended he should be made redundant.

Norman Lamb, Lib Dem North Norfolk MP, said any potential risk to children was “unacceptable” and he wanted to see a clear action plan from the county council.

He said the politicians in charge of overseeing the service had to be held accountable for the problems and warned: “We have elections coming up in May for the county council when the people of Norfolk can give their verdict on the Conservative administration in Norfolk and whether it is, on this, matters relating to the incinerator and the leadership issues, up to the job.”

In response, Alison Thomas, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children’s services, said work had already begun to address the problems raised by Ofsted.

She said the inspectors had given some “very clear messages about where improvements need to be made” and immediate action was taken.

She added: “I’m working closely with the director of children’s services and senior members of staff to put together a robust and effective improvement plan that will continue to improve the child protection arrangements in Norfolk.

“In addition, we met with the Children’s Improvement Board this week to discuss the best way forward and we will be meeting with the department for education on March 11.

“We will do whatever is necessary to tackle the issues, and welcome the additional support and challenge provided by Norfolk’s MPs. It is right that they should challenge us and I look forward to meeting with them soon so we can discuss the issues identified by Ofsted and explain the improvements being made to the service.”

The Norfolk Safeguarding Children Board is meeting on March 15 to begin addressing the partnership issues identified by Ofsted.

The Tory MPs urged any “interested parties” – parents, schools or the organisations assessed by Ofsted – to contact them if they needed help.

11 comments

  • MPs at it again. This is the latest trend for keeping themselves in the news. Calling for this and that, or pledging to do things, demanding whatever, urging, you name it, as long as it gives the impression they are on the side of the common people, they are straight in there. Diverts attention from their government's ineptitude, that being the real attraction for them.

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    Police Commissioner ???

    Tuesday, March 5, 2013

  • Both the Director of Children’s Services and the Cabinet portfolio holder should resign. How can the public have any respect for an administration in County Hall that refuses to implement the principle of accountability? The ultimate responsibility for the present situation lies with these two, and they should go now. No one should feel sorry for Ms Christensen. In 2011-2012, she was paid a total of £165,100.

    Report this comment

    Nemesis

    Wednesday, March 6, 2013

  • I am rather alarmed that this article falls under the heading "Incinerator". Just how does this daft bat intend to deal with the children of Norfolk? And she is still grinning. Look serious Thomas, you are in trouble. Or are you so sure your mankini wearing leader is going to do nothing? I guess you are.

    Report this comment

    alecto

    Wednesday, March 6, 2013

  • I hope the MPs do not dig too deep or they might find that child protection is not the only department in children's services that is inadequate. The head of adoption has recently left (did he jump or was he pushed) and the fostering service seems to be losing more carers than they are recruiting.

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    theanchovy

    Wednesday, March 6, 2013

  • All Norfolk’s nine MPs have called for a swift response from the council to ensure the county’s young people were not being put at risk..... Isn't it a bit late for that!! You can tell an election is looming... As a grandmother of children who went through the 'system' a few years back, I can tell you the support provided is VERY patchy. We had a brilliant social worker, who was as frustrated as us with the red tape which prevented vulnerable children being removed and placed with their father. Not to mention the thousands of pounds spent on solicitors fees when it should have been sorted much quicker. And when we tried to complain, our local MP at the time was no help whatsoever.....

    Report this comment

    Carol Bolton

    Tuesday, March 5, 2013

  • sorry being a few days late. as an extremely angry foster carer and ex school governor i would be delighted to share my view and experiences to the council leaders, MPs and Ofsted. EDP if they request my email address to contact let them have it please. this bunch of cronies need sorting !

    Report this comment

    JB

    Monday, March 11, 2013

  • Fenscape - Borat was talking about Cory. A sort of Freudian slip. He has a lot on his mind. Mostly they are dreadful polluters wherever they operate but there are pockets of good practice, that is what he meant.

    Report this comment

    Police Commissioner ???

    Wednesday, March 6, 2013

  • The use of the words 'pockets' and piste are quite extraordinary by Borat in this article.. Surely, sacking, accountability, dismissal, removal from Cabinet together with allowances are more appropriate. And also what is Alison Thomas doing hanging around on the side of the road ?The intervention of MPs is remarkable not least as election time is just round the corner. I can sum up the respect the NCC has in Norfolk by the comments by made the witness Mr Boldon (Cory Wheelabrator) at the Incinerator enquiry yesterday - who in their right mind would sign a contract before getting planning permission - this is what the NCC under Tory control under the Murphy dictatorship has come to - not fit for purpose and the MPs did nothing in spite of being told what was going on many times. The cronyism is rife - and the former leader who posed under the title of transformation was exactly right he transformed it into a nasty, despotic regime who need its just deserts next May.

    Report this comment

    maryjane

    Wednesday, March 6, 2013

  • What the heck is a bypass at Long Stratton to do with the Ofsted report?? Are we on the same page or is this just a misprint of the photo???

    Report this comment

    canuk

    Wednesday, March 6, 2013

  • Borrett: " I’m comforted to hear the indications in the Ofsted report that there are pockets of good practice." Pockets? Just pockets? Where vulnerable children are concerned? Outrageous and disgusting - I'm sure this statement will be of vast comfort to the kids out there who are living at risk in unbearable conditions. Children's Services are no longer fit for purpose; another victim of the cuts at county hall. Thomas and Hardy - what a double act!

    Report this comment

    User Removed

    Tuesday, March 5, 2013

  • Ofsted only looked at 119 out of 5,500 children's cases currently being dealt with by NCC chilren's services. It is very worrying how many children have been affected by this. Ofsted found NCC children services inadequate in all areas, standards have hit rock bottom. And what about the children and thousands of families NCC ignored in West Norfolk. Small babies, whose lungs have not properly developed who would have to breath in a combination of poisons from a burrning waste incinerator these children have been thrown to the side, discarded their health does not matter. 65.516 thousand people said No.

    Report this comment

    Jack

    Wednesday, March 6, 2013

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