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MPs want fast action for service.

Byline: MARTIN SHAW martin.shaw@examiner.co.uk @MARTINSHAWWRNS

HUDDERSFIELD MP Barry Sheerman has demanded a more rapid improvement in Kirklees Council's failing children's services department.

Experts from Leeds City Council have been drafted in to sort out a department hit by "serious and widespread" failures.

In November last year an Ofsted report slammed children's services and found "some children not being protected."

Troubleshooter Eleanor Brazil was appointed commissioner for children's social care in Kirklees to carry out a review and report back to the Government.

Her report, due to be published in March, was delayed until after the General Election.

It was published on Thursday and though improvements have been made, local MPs want to see more progress - and quickly.

Mr Sheerman said: "There is no excuse for this not being sorted. What happened was deeply disappointing and it hasn't been sorted out quickly enough.

"They have made a great effort so far but we cannot rest until every child in Kirklees is safe." In her report, Mrs Brazil told how the department's troubles could be traced back to late 2014 when the long-standing director of children's services, Alison O'Sullivan, became national vice-president of the Association of Directors of Children's Services and lost local focus at a time where there were added responsibilities for the role.

Mrs Brazil said senior managers should have become aware of the problems earlier and lacked adequate "quality assurance systems."

The Ofsted report described a "poor" service that left children potentially at risk.

In her conclusion Mrs Brazil said: "Kirklees had undertaken diagnostic work in late 2015 and at the beginning of 2016 and had a good sense of the problems in the service, but not necessarily the extent of them.

"Nor did they have the level of expertise in improving children's social care services at leadership level to create a coherent, well co-ordinated improvement programme to address the quality of practice issues in a timely and effective way."

Mrs Brazil ordered that Kirklees link up with Leeds City Council and that the Leeds director of social services take overall control. Steve Walker is the now the director of children's services for both Kirklees and Leeds.

Colne Valley Labour MP Thelma Walker said she was "deeply concerned" at how vulnerable children had been let down - and said she would be holding council leader David Sheard and new chief executive Jacqui Gedman "to account".

In a statement she said: "The commissioner's report has shown that Kirklees Council does not have the capacity to deal with the issues alone, however I am encouraged that they will be working with Leeds City Council as National Partners in Practice to make sure that every child is helped and protected.

"The report does highlight areas of continued concern, but I am reassured that the direction in which the council is moving is positive.

"I have a meeting arranged with the leader and the chief executive of Kirklees Council to discuss these issues, and I will be holding them to account. I have been assured that no child has been harmed through the failings of Kirklees Council."

Batley and Spen Labour MP Tracy Brabin also said she was "deeply concerned" and added: "For any child to go unprotected, or not to have their needs met, is unacceptable.

"I welcome the report and the news that Leeds City Council will work in partnership with Kirklees in order to improve the service.

"I am clear that there should be no delay in rapidly improving local children's services. That's why I have sought an urgent meeting with the leaders of Kirklees and Leeds councils, to discuss their plans going forward."
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 16, 2017
Words:607
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