Children’s chief in sudden departure

Calderdale council has lost its head of children’s social care, just as the vital service was beginning to show signs of emerging from a long period in the doldrums.

There has been no official explanation, but the sudden departure of Pixley Clarke comes just days after another review of children’s safeguarding procedures.

Inspectors and auditors issued damning reports 18 months ago which showed that some children had been left at “significant risk of harm” over many years due to the council’s failings.

But recent root-and-branch reforms seemed to be working, according to the latest study, even though the number of youngsters in council care has risen from 350 to 366 in the past month alone.

Pixley Clarke was a social worker and later a social care inspector before being recruited by Calderdale Council last year in response to the criticism of safeguarding services by Ofsted and independent assessors.

Last month, a panel of experts invited by the council to review changes in child protection procedures said youngsters were safer than they had been, safer processes were in place, the council and its partners were getting better at the basics and computerised record keeping had been successfully introduced.

A council spokesman said he could not comment on the departure of the head of children’s social care beyond confirming that she no longer worked for the authority.

The children’s social care department is responsible for assessing and meeting the needs of children in need, looked after children and care leavers, as well as children subject to Child Protection Plans.

It also provides a range of family support services.

The leading councillor for children’s services, Megan Swift (Lab, Town) said: “I can not comment on the position of any individual, but steps are in place to ensure the continued leadership of the children’s social care service.”

• A report is due out soon on the latest review of safeguarding, which was carried out by Eleanor Schooling, director of children’s services with Islington Council, Judith Wyllie, the head of service, policy and planning performance with Blackburn with Darwen Council, Andy Gill, a director of better outcomes practice, Coactiva, health peer Jacqui Dawson, former Leeds councillor Richard Brett, Rotherham councillor Paul Lakin and Andrew Winfield, a manager with Local Government Group.