The Government troubleshooter brought in to take charge of Kirklees Council’s failing children’s services has spoken publicly for the first time about the scale of her task.
Eleanor Brazil OBE was tasked with pinpointing frailties in the service last month after Ofsted said the department was “inadequate.”
Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, brought Ms Brazil in as the Children’s Services Commissioner, in a bid to turn it around.
The government was forced to act after inspectors identified concerns in over a third of children’s cases looked at, including unrecognised neglect and abuse.
A further problem that was flagged up as a major worry was the large number of people leaving employment in the department with Ofsted saying “workforce instability” meant improvements were hard to make.
Ms Brazil said this was the fourth time she had been appointed as commissioner for such work.
“I will spend time with frontline staff and get a sense of how it is for social workers to do a good job, how they are being supported by the managers and what’s getting in the way of it.”
She said: “I think I have two tasks here. The first is to review the leadership and management capability and capacity of the local authority. I will make some recommendations back to government at the end of the review period at the end of March.
“The second part of the role is to help drive improvement.”
She said it was “too early to tell” whether it would be of benefit to take children’s services out of the council’s hands.
Asked what her job entailed she said: “I will spend time with frontline staff and get a sense of how it is for social workers to do a good job, how they are being supported by the managers and what’s getting in the way of it.”
And she stressed she had the full “authority of the government to go to any meeting and talk to anyone who is relevant. The council is being hugely supportive in helping me do that.
“If you read the Ofsted report it’s clear something went very wrong in terms of the focus on the most vulnerable children in the area.
“To be fair the council had started to address things but had not had the impact.
“There are people committed to getting it right.
“There are people here who are doing a good job but everybody needs to be doing a good job.
“I am encouraged. I think, politically, the council is supportive. I have met the whole cabinet and they are extremely serious that this has happened and they want to sort it out as quickly as possible.
“This is not a passive role. If I see something that I think could be done better I will say so.
“My view is that we have to tackle a number of things at the same time. The biggest issue is always about leadership and direction at every level.
“I have not seen anything that I have been surprised by.
“I wouldn’t be here if there weren’t things that weren’t right."
Asked about newspaper reports that she was being paid £1,000 a day Ms Brazil was anxious to deny them.
She said: "I have never been paid £1,000 a day. That figure came from when I was Director of Children's Services in Leeds.
"In fact my services and those of Mark Gurrey, (who is helping Ms Brazil with her mission), are paid for by the Department for Education so we are a freebie!"