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DfE appoints commissioner for Torbay Council

John Coughlan appointed as commissioner at Torbay following inadequate Ofsted rating

The Department for Education has appointed John Coughlan as a commissioner of children’s services at Torbay Council following an inadequate rating in an Ofsted inspection.

The Chief Executive of Hampshire County Council and former president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services has been appointed as Commissioner for Children's Services in Torbay and Hampshire County Council has been appointed as expert advisers.

“The Commissioner is expected to provide independent strategic oversight of Torbay Council’s progress, with support from Hampshire County Council as expert advisers,” said the direction from the Secretary of State for Education.

The performance of Torbay Council in respect of children who need help and protection declined from ‘adequate’ in April 2013 to ‘inadequate’ in Ofsted’s inspection report of 5 January 2016. The 2016 Ofsted report found the Council’s delivery of children’s social care services to be ‘inadequate’. Leadership, management and governance in the Council were also judged to be ‘inadequate’.

An improvement notice was issued to Torbay Council on 31 January 2011 following the findings of poor performance in safeguarding services for children and young people contained in the inspection report carried out by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission, published in October 2010.

A further improvement notice was issued on 19 April 2012 to revise the targets contained in the first improvement notice; clarify the focus of the targets set out in the first improvement notice going into the second year of improvement; and to reflect progress made under the first improvement notice. The second notice was lifted on 4 February 2014 as a result of progress.

However, Torbay has stated its intention to transfer children’s services into an ‘Integrated Care Organisation’ (ICO) in March 2017. The ICO would be run in partnership with the Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, and would deliver health and children’s services together for the area.

John Coughlan and the expert advisers shall:

  1. Jointly chair Torbay’s Children’s Services Improvement Board;
  2. Ensure there is a robust improvement plan which spans children’s services, and an effective reporting system that enables progress and outcomes to be measured;
  3. Ensure that the improvement plan includes clear and specific actions which reflect the journey of the child and which are designed to improve the quality of services for children in need of help and protection;
  4. Oversee the implementation of a robust monitoring and audit framework, which supports practice improvement and the effective delivery of the service;
  5. Strengthen leadership capacity within children’s social care services ensuring that there are dedicated mentoring arrangements for the Head of Children’s Social Services; and matching up key personnel throughout the organisation for peer to peer mentoring and support;
  6. Work with officials at the Department for Education to ensure that advice is provided to the Secretary of State on the viability of the transfer of children’s social care services into the existing Integrated Care Organisation (established by Torbay Council to deliver health and children’s services) at key progress points in August and again in November;
  7. Advise on the appointment of a new Director of Children’s Services;
  8. Support the improvement of partnership working; and
  9. Support practice improvement through the re-design of systems and processes.

The Commissioner will provide a progress report to the Secretary of State assessing service improvements in Torbay by the end of August 2016. The direction will remain in force until it is revoked by the Secretary of State.

Councillor Keith Mans, Deputy Leader and Executive Lead Member for Children's Services at Hampshire County Council, said: "This is another example of how the quality of children's social care that is practised in Hampshire is highly regarded nationally."

Councillor Mans added: "I have no doubt that our Children's Services professionals can make a real difference in helping Torbay to improve its Children's Services as rapidly as possible, and we look forward to working with our new social care colleagues in Torbay."

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