The new interim director of children’s services in Norfolk has vowed to dramatically improve performance after a third critical Ofsted report.
In February, the county council’s arrangements for safeguarding children were found to be inadequate.
In July, its role in challenging and supporting schools to improve was judged ineffective.
Last Friday, an Ofsted report found services for looked-after children in the county were inadequate.
Commenting on the triple criticism, SW Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss, who is also Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Childcare, said: “This is obviously a very serious concern.”
Children’s Minister Edward Timpson reacted by warning of government intervention if there was no rapid and sustainable improvement in children’s services.
He accepted there had been some action to bring about improvement but said: “Three separate Ofsted reports over six months suggest widespread and systemic problems across children’s services.”
In June, the council’s previous Director of Children’s Services, Lisa Christensen, stood down.
Her interim replacement Sheila Lock, who has turned around poor performance in other authorities, said: “Ofsted and the Government are right to voice their concerns because we need to do better by children, young people and families in Norfolk.
“Our performance isn’t good enough and we must do something to change that.”
She was certain services could improve and said: “We must all focus on getting the basics right and leading, managing and providing services well.”
The starting point was ensuring solid foundations and effective services and support.
“By doing this, we can make sure the additional £16.5 million investment in children’s services promised by the council’s cabinet is used in the most effective way and makes the biggest difference for families,” she said.
Ms Truss said: “I am pleased the new interim director has committed to see rapid improvement take place and that the Department for Education is working with the county council to ensure this is a priority.”
In its report on looked-after children in Norfolk, Ofsted found there was a determination to improve but insufficient capacity in the current system to cope with demand. Some examples of good quality social work were found but they were not consistent across the county.
The county council’s new cabinet member for safeguarding children, James Joyce, said: “I know that in the past, Norfolk did not provide the highest standards of service. Change is happening now.”