We will get kids back on track, vows chief

Owen Williams, new chief executive of Calderdale Council, at Halifax town hall
Owen Williams, new chief executive of Calderdale Council, at Halifax town hall
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COUNCIL leader Owen Williams pledged he and his team will turn around Calderdale’s ailing children’s services.

He said swift improvements had to be made for the benefit of youngsters.

“We want quality to be the norm, sooner rather than later, months not years,” he told the Courier.

His comments follow a spate of adverse publicity, which includes the suspension of director Janet Donaldson and senior resignations.

A recent Ofsted report found the service still performed poorly and concerns have been raised that the Government might intervene.

In a review, local authority experts have said the pace of improvement needs to be quicker.

In 2009 the council formed an Improvement Board after concern over standards and in 2010 a highly critical Ofsted led to 20 targets being identified.

An independent chairperson with links to central Government was then placed on the board.

The council also sought help from the Local Government Group which recently concluded its review.

Mr Williams said it had recognised some improvements but also the need to bring about further quick progress and the involvement of the board would give the council access to further support and funding.

Mr Williams said there was a wealth of experience in the children’s social care team, now led by temporary director Stuart Smith.

Efforts will continue to fill vacancies.

Mr Williams said: “Back in 2010 people were not being dealt with.

“The review says we have gone a long way in dealing with these issues and we are now talking about the wider experiences so all young people have the best opportunity to progress their lives.”

There are between 360 to 380 young people currently affected.

“We have to increase the pace of improvement and make sure the right resources are going into children’s social care.”

Mr Williams said if more funding was needed, he was sure councillors would be supportive.

He said once the notice to improve was withdrawn – which can only happen after a follow-up inspection – he wanted the Improvement Board to continue monitoring.

“Calderdale has a history in social care in making improvements and then going backwards,” said Mr Williams.

“I want to make sure the improvements are embedded for the longer term. The Improvement Board has really helped us and does not allow for complacency.

“I am accountable – all the Improvement Board are accountable.

“Our staff deal with challenging, complex situations and I have a lot of respect for them.”

l Tomorrow: the review findings