A West Norfolk MP has this afternoon welcomed the appointment of a new commissioner to oversee Norfolk County Council’s troubled children’s services department.
Dave Hill, who heads children’s services for Essex County Council, will start work immediately in a bid to turn things around, amid government warnings the unit will be taken over if it does not improve quickly.
North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham has welcomed the move and said he will be referring several cases to Mr Hill.
He said: “Although there are many incredibly dedicated social workers in Norfolk who do a quite superb job, there have unfortunately been far too many basic failings.
“Over the years there has been a combination of poor leadership and a seemingly inability to weed out poor practice.
“Indeed, there have been a number of cases in my own constituency where families have not received the support and backing they needed in order to keep their children.
“We cannot always undo the mistakes of the past, but there are families out there who deserve a proper explanation for events which have torn their lives apart.
“What is needed is a new culture that protects the most vulnerable, but strives to keep families together wherever possible.”
The measure is one of three similar appointments to struggling social services units that were announced by the prime minister, David Cameron, this morning.
He 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.”
Michael Rosen, director of Norfolk County Council’s children’s services, said the authority had been made aware of the Government’s intentions in a letter last week.
He said: “Dave Hill has a strong track record in leading improvement in Children’s Services in Essex and is someone who knows Norfolk well.
“I have every confidence in his appointment and believe he will see that we are a rapidly improving authority with all the commitment, skills and knowledge necessary to make the progress required. I agree with the prime minister that our role as a corporate parent is of crucial importance. The extra support Mr Hill will bring can only be helpful in further improving prospects for looked after children.”
Mr Rosen said Ofsted had recognised the improvements made in the department and further progress is being made.
The authority has launched a leaving care programme to support youngsters as they make their first steps into adulthood and figures revealed last week showed looked-after children in Norfolk is well above the national average.
Mr Rosen added: “We want the Commissioner to help us build on what is an increasingly bright outlook, so that we go on to develop outstanding services for children and families in Norfolk.”