Lack of 'leadership and management' in Kirklees led to children's services partnership with Leeds City Council

There were serious failings with children's services in Kirklees.
There were serious failings with children's services in Kirklees.

A lack of “leadership and management capability” at Kirklees Council led to a formal partnership with Leeds City Council to improve children’s social care, it has been revealed.

The Department for Education today published a report by Children’s Commissioner Eleanor Brazil, who was appointed last year to review children’s services in Kirklees following a damning Ofsted verdict in November that the local authority was “inadequate” in that area.

Thelma Walker MP.

Thelma Walker MP.

The watchdog had outlined “serious and widespread failures which result in some children not being protected or having their needs met”.

Ms Brazil recommended that the authority should enter a formal partnership with Leeds City Council to improve care. This will be in place for a period of up to three years, Kirklees said.

Her report, which was actually completed in March, states: “Kirklees does not currently have the leadership and management capacity and capability to drive forward the changes necessary to achieve the required standards in children’s social care.”

Colne Valley MP Thelma Walker has now said that she will hold Kirklees Council leader David Sheard, as well as chief executive Jacqui Gedman, to account.

Kirklees Council leader David Sheard.

Kirklees Council leader David Sheard.

In a statement, the Labour MP said: “Continuous changes in personnel have not helped the Council to develop a coherent and robust strategy for supporting these children, and these issues are evident.”

She said that “a more rigorous plan to make improvements is now in place” and was encouraged that work with Leeds City Council was now under way as Kirklees does not have the “capacity to deal with the issues alone”.

She added: “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.”

She added that she has been “assured that no child has been harmed through the failings” of the authority.

No political party has overall control in Kirklees, but Labour has the largest number of members.

Council leader David Sheard yesterday said that he agreed with the findings of the commissioner’s report.

He said: “Whilst the outcome is very much what we anticipated, it’s important to stress that a great deal has changed in the six months since Eleanor completed her report.

“The partnership with Leeds is something we began to establish in early 2017. This relationship is flourishing, is strongly supported by both authorities and is already having a major impact.

“We have a huge commitment to developing our services and achieving the best possible outcomes for children, young people and their families.”

He said that new senior leadership team has been in place since early summer, headed by Director of Children’s Services for both Kirklees and Leeds, Steve Walker, which has “strengthened and stabilised” the department.

But Coun Sheard said that there could be no “quick fix” and added that Ms Brazil’s report is an “important milestone”.

Coun Lisa Mulherin, Leeds City Council’s executive member for Children and Families, said “we are very happy to support our neighbouring authority,” but added that “there’s no taking our eye off the ball” in Leeds.

Funding will be given to Leeds – which was also for a time under fire over child social care until 2015 – for the work but Kirklees will still be responsible for delivering services. Problems with children’s services in Kirklees were identified from July 2015, the commissioner’s report said.