Letter from Andrew Christie, Children’s Commissioner for Northamptonshire and Ian Curryer, Chair of Northamptonshire Children’s Trust
Northamptonshire County Council’s children’s services is on an improvement journey. After the Council experienced a concerning focused visit in October 2018, the Department for Education issued a Statutory Direction in relation to the improvement of the Council’s children’s services and appointed an independent commissioner, Malcolm Newsam, in November 2018. The development of a Children’s Trust was recommended by the commissioner in May 2019. Children’s services were subsequently judged Inadequate by Ofsted in June 2019.
The Ofsted report highlighted the urgent need for improvement across children’s services. It found that the financial uncertainty contributed to significant shortfalls in social work capacity across the service, resulting in unmanageable caseloads and high volumes of unallocated and unassessed work. We are pleased to say that the number of unallocated cases has been reduced to zero and has not gone above this since January this year.
In March 2018, Max Caller CBE published a report that recommended the dissolution of the County Council and seven District and Borough Councils to be replaced by the creation of two new unitary authorities to comply with its duty under the Local Government Act 1999 – to secure best value in the delivery of its services over a prolonged period. This led to the appointment of two MHCLG commissioners, Tony McArdle and Brian Roberts in May 2018 to support the Council in its compliance to improve and manage its budget.
After a year as commissioner at Northamptonshire, Malcolm Newsam CBE passed the reins over to Andrew Christie CBE and Clare Chamberlain CBE as the two new commissioners in October 2019 to drive improvement in children’s services and support the set-up of the new Children’s Services Trust. The Council has worked hard to improve children’s services and make progress for establishment of the Trust.
The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in an understandable impact on the Trust timeline, with a revised ‘go-live’ date of early 2021, prior to Vesting Day of the two new unitary authorities on 1 April 2021. A lot of work has been carried out to stabilise the budget and prepare the service delivery for the new Trust. I (Ian Curryer) have been appointed as the Chair of the Trust and we have appointed four independent Non-Executive Directors who will make up some of the Board. We have also appointed an interim Chief Executive, interim Director of Finance and Resources and programme lead for the Trust to drive progress. However, there is still a lot to be done with the appointments of a permanent Chief Executive and Director of Finance and Resources being a key milestone to continue driving this important project forward.
We are advertising the roles for a permanent Chief Executive of the Trust and permanent Director of Finance and Resources in parallel, with a staggered process to ensure the Chief Executive plays a fundamental part in the appointment of their Director of Finance and Resources.
We are clear that all children in Northamptonshire, no matter what their background, deserve to be safe and have the best chances in life to achieve their full potential. The Trust will play the fundamental role in ensuring this happens. As the Children’s Commissioner and Chair of the Children’s Trust, we are clear of the paramount importance that these roles will bring to improving children and young people’s lives.
This is an exciting project that has started to gain real momentum over the last few months as we start to emerge from the COVID crisis. If you believe you have the skills and experience to help us drive forward a Children’s Trust in Northamptonshire that will secure the quality of children’s services and become a beacon of excellence in years to come, then we would like to hear from you.
Thank you for your interest in the role and please do get in touch as we would be very keen to answer your questions and give you any more detailed information you might require.
Andrew Christie, Children’s Commissioner
Ian Curryer, Chair of the Trust