Victoria Leggett, Education correspondent
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Both the director of children’s services and cabinet member for the county council insist they will not stand down over yesterday’s damning Ofsted report and are determined to oversee the major improvements needed.
The authority acknowledged its safeguarding performance was “not good enough for Norfolk children and families”.
But Lisa Christensen, director of children’s services, said she did not believe the council was failing children or putting them at risk.
“No I don’t think we are failing,” she said. “It is inadequate to have inconsistency of practice but it is not that all practice is bad. Until everything is good it is not good enough, and I agree with that, but I don’t and I won’t say we are failing.”
She insisted child protection services had improved since the last assessment in 2011 following a great deal of dedication from staff.
Ms Christensen said a tougher inspection framework had been brought in with higher expectations of local authorities meaning the two assessments were not comparable.
She added: “I wasn’t expecting to get inadequate. I know we still have issues about quality and inconsistency but my view is that the service is better than it was last time.
“I think there is a lot more improvement to be done in Norfolk – that’s my job. We have made a lot of improvement and we will continue to move forward.”
Ms Christensen said responsibility for the problems would ultimately lie with her but added: “It’s important we have some stability and leadership. Before you ask, no, I’m not going to resign.”
The need for stability during what is set to be a difficult time for children’s services was echoed by cabinet member Alison Thomas.
She said: “The Ofsted report made no direct criticism of the senior leadership or political leadership. I think this would be the wrong time for somebody to resign. We would have to replace that person – how do you bring in somebody with the same level of knowledge and understanding of issues in Norfolk tomorrow to come in and get straight on with dealing with this? We would lose capacity and lose expertise and experience at the very time we need it.”
She said the council – including representatives from all parties – had worked hard following the last inspection to make improvements but she felt the increased workload and pressure on staff had made it a far more difficult situation.
She added: “If there is a suggestion that putting more money into the situation will improve it then, by all means, I will be championing for that with my fellow cabinet members but we protected the child protection services in Norfolk through the Big Conversation. I was absolutely adamant we couldn’t touch that area.
“I think it’s more about ensuring we have got consistent quality of practice. It might be about providing additional support and training for staff.”
Ms Christensen urged people to read the full Ofsted report rather than focus on the one-word judgement given by inspectors.