Letter to Anne Longfield Children's Commissioner

Dear Anne Longfield,

We feel compelled to write to you regarding our deep concerns about the state of Children's Services in Northamptonshire. Under government directive, the county is going through a process of forming two Unitary authorities from eight local councils. This is due to the mismanagement of the county's finances over a number of years.

We have watched the children's service become more and more fractured. There have been seven directors and interims over the last seven years. A crisis point has been reached in the last week with the resignation of the latest director, Sally Hodges, and the director of Early Years and Safeguarding, Jean Imray.

This follows on from the resignation of Malcolm Newsam CBE, the children's commissioner brought in by the Secretaries of State for Education and Housing, Communities and Local Government to secure immediate improvement in the authority's delivery of children's social care services.

No plausible reason has been given for the resignation of these three highly competent professionals. The service is left in turmoil with unallocated cases back to an alarming figure of 232.

We recently met with Sally Hodges and Jean Imray who discussed their improvement plans for all aspects of the service. They said they were here for the duration and to see the service transferred to a Children's Trust in June 2020.

In 2013 there was an Ofsted inspection which highlighted weaknesses. In 2016 there was a full Ofsted inspection , a further Ofsted focussed visit in October 2018, a report by Malcolm Newsam in May 2019. The most recent Ofsted inspection in June 2019 concluded that nothing much had changed. Three out of four areas were judged to be 'Inadequate'.

Inspections have highlighted the problems time and time again. Sustainable solutions need to be found and implemented.

There have been two serious case reviews over the deaths of two young children in the county. There are two further serious case reviews to be published.

Elected members need to understand why Northamptonshire County Council is in this position. We need to have confidence in the service which is there to protect our most vulnerable children. On both counts we feel there is a lack of transparency and leadership.

We would ask that you consider seriously our request for an independent inquiry into the situation. There are questions to be asked before the service is transferred to a Children's Trust, if that is even the right way forward. There are growing doubts about the recommendation and subsequent decision to form a Children's Trust as we move to two Unitary authorities.

Yours sincerely.

Cllr. Jane Birch, Shadow Portfolio Children's Services

Cllr. Danielle Stone, Deputy Leader Labour Group

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