Press release

PM: We will not stand by – failing children's services will be taken over

David Cameron will announce that poorly performing children’s services must improve or be taken over by high-performing authorities, experts and charities.

  • Landmark reforms will mean failing children’s services in local authorities will be taken over by high-performing authorities, teams of experts and charities
  • New plans mirror approach taken with failing schools
  • Over £100m will be invested in attracting more high-calibre graduates into social work

The Prime Minister will today announce radical reforms which will mean poorly performing children’s services must improve – or they will be taken over.

Children’s services in local authorities, which have persistently failed in the past, will be taken over immediately. Sharper triggers will be put in place so an emergency Ofsted inspection can be ordered where there are concerns about an authority’s performance.

This could include complaints from whistle-blowers or evidence of poor leadership. High-performing local authorities, experts in child protection and charities will be brought in to turn children’s services around – including by acting as sponsors, forming ‘trusts’ to take over authorities which are judged to be failing.

In the past, children’s services were taken over on an ad hoc basis with no clear national response to failure. For the first time, a formalised academy style system will be put in place so that any local authority judged as inadequate by Ofsted has to show significant improvement within 6 months or be taken over.

If a local authority’s children’s services fails to improve within 6 months of their Ofsted inspection, a new service leader (Commissioner) will be put in place and high-performing local authorities, experts in child protection and charities will be brought in.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

Children’s services support the most vulnerable children in our society. They are in our care; we, the state, are their parents; and we are failing them. It is our duty to put this right; to say poorly performing local authorities: improve, or be taken over. We will not stand by while children are let down by inadequate social services.

This will be one of the big landmark reforms of this Parliament, as transformative as what we did in education in the last. And it shows how serious we are about confronting state failure and tackling some the biggest social problems in our country. Together we will make sure that not a single child is left behind.

As part of these major reforms, the Prime Minister will announce that Sunderland children’s services will become a voluntary trust established by Nick Whitfield. The trust will take immediate action to improve Sunderland’s performance following a very poor Ofsted inspection in July which found widespread failure of leadership. New service leaders will also be appointed to step in and tackle failings in Norfolk and Sandwell children’s services.

Further measures announced today will include:

  • Over £100m to attract more high-calibre graduates into social work by expanding the successful programmes, Frontline and Step Up
  • Working with 6 of the country’s best local authorities, North Yorkshire, Hampshire, Tri-borough (Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea), Leeds, Durham and Richmond & Kingston to give academy style freedoms to high-performing authorities
  • A drive to recruit new trust sponsors from the charity sector to help deliver innovative children’s services
  • Education Secretary Nicky Morgan will chair a roundtable in the new year with local authorities and major charities such as Barnardo’s and the NSPCC
  • Urgent review of Local Safeguarding Children Boards and centralisation of Serious Case Reviews to learn lessons from serious incidents
  • A new What Works Centre, to make sure social workers learn from the best practice in the country.

Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan said:

Every single day our most vulnerable children and young people are supported by dedicated, expert social workers – support that changes their lives for the better. But in too many towns and cities across the country, children in the most desperate of circumstances are being allowed to slip through the cracks. This simply isn’t good enough and every single child failed, is a child too many.

This is why we want to see excellent child and family social work at the heart of the child protection system. We are creating new partnerships which will see experts working hand in hand to raise standards in struggling local authorities, we’re investing more to ensure the best and the brightest get into front line social work and we’re driving innovation across the system so that every child has the best possible start in life.

Chief Social Worker for Children and Families Isabelle Trowler said:

Children and their families deserve the best help and protection we can provide. The announcements today confirm the landscape for child and family social work is changing fast.

It is imperative that we, as a profession, step up to the mark and play a leading role in its design and delivery. I look forward to working closely with the authorities announced today, as our partners in practice, so that the future is built upon innovation and our current success and strength.