Commissioner for Tameside’s ‘inadequate’ children’s services named

A MAN with experience of building one council’s ‘inadequate’ children’s services department has been appointed to tackle Tameside’s.

Andy Couldrick has been brought in by the Government as a commissioner following a damning Ofsted report.

And part of his job will be to investigate whether the best option will be to remove the department from local authority control.

Mr Couldrick is expected to report to the education secretary by July and a statutory direction from the Department for Education includes whether ‘the most effective way of securing and sustaining improvement in Tameside is to remove the control of children’s social care services from the council.’

Andy Couldrick has been brought in by the Government as a commissioner following a damning Ofsted report

The former chief executive of Wokingham Borough Council in Berkshire and Birmingham Children’s Trust led an incredibly fast children’s services improvement at the former, moving up from a rating of inadequate in just a year.

Now he has the task of overseeing Tameside after it dropped back to inadequate in a scathing Ofsted report.

Inspectors believed ‘the quality of social work practice has deteriorated’ and ‘some children experience ongoing harm and live in neglectful situations for too long.’

They also said some children can be left at risk of further harm.

In a report following December’s investigation led by Andy Waugh, it said: “The quality of social work practice has deteriorated for those children in need of help and protection and children in care.

“There are serious failures that leave children being harmed or at risk of harm. Children who need help and protection are not always identified at the earliest opportunity.

“The quality of assessments is not good enough. Therefore, children are not receiving the right interventions at the right time.

“Too many experience drift and delay, including changes in social worker, weak planning that is overly adult-focused and a lack of robust management oversight and direction.

“As a result, some experience ongoing harm and live in neglectful situations for too long, without timely authoritative action being taken.

“There has been ineffective senior leadership in Tameside since the last inspection, which has resulted in too many not receiving effective services that meet their needs.

“Not all shortfalls identified during the last inspection, or the focused visit in June 2022, have been addressed.”

Ofsted identified several issues that need to improve at Tameside, including the council’s oversight and governance of children’s services, the multi-agency recognition and response to risk.

Its report said that since a new leadership team was appointed in 2023, ‘swift and decisive action is being taken in some parts of the service.’

However, ‘it is too soon to see the impact of these changes for children and to know whether they will lead to sustained improvements.’

Leader, Cllr Gerald Cooney, said after the report was published: “It’s our absolute priority to continue to improve services for our children and families.

“This report comes as no surprise as we raised these concerns with Ofsted in August, when we took steps to bring in new leadership.

“I’m pleased Ofsted acknowledged we have the right leadership team in place and a robust improvement plan.

“The council will be assigned a Department for Education Commissioner for the next three months, which I see as a positive opportunity and will allow us to continue to receive valuable feedback on our current capacity and capability to implement our improvement plan.

“I’m whole-heartedly determined we are going to get this right and give our children and young people the quality of service they need and deserve.”

Away from the council chamber, chief executive Sandra Stewart said; “Soon after my appointment as Chief Executive in December 2022 I commissioned an independent service diagnostic assessment as I was becoming concerned about the pace of improvement.

“I immediately brought in a new leadership team and put in place a protective response and an improvement plan to address some weaknesses.

“I’m pleased Ofsted noted a more robust oversight at a senior leadership level. I will of course continue to vigorously review all aspects of children’s services to monitor and manage the ongoing improvements needed.”

And Allison Parkinson apologised, saying: “I am sorry that children’s services in Tameside are not currently at the standard they should be.

“We are working hard to deliver the improvements required to ensure that children receive the right support at the right time.”

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