MPs have demanded a more rapid improvement in Kirklees Council’s failing children’s services department.
Experts from Leeds City Council have been drafted in to sort out a department hit by “serious and widespread” failures.
In November last year an Ofsted report slammed children’s services and found “some children not being protected.”
Her report, due to be published in March, was delayed until after the General Election.
It was published on Thursday and though improvements have been made, local MPs want to see more progress – and quickly.
Huddersfield Labour MP Barry Sheerman said: “There is no excuse for this not being sorted. What happened was deeply disappointing and it hasn’t been sorted out quickly enough.
“They have made a great effort so far but we cannot rest until every child in Kirklees is safe.”
In her report, Mrs Brazil told how the department’s troubles could be traced back to late 2014 when the long-standing director of children’s services, Alison O’Sullivan, became national vice-president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and lost local focus at a time where there were added responsibilities for the role.
Mrs Brazil said senior managers should have become aware of the problems much earlier and lacked adequate “quality assurance systems.”
The Ofsted report described a “poor” service that left children potentially at risk.
In her conclusion Mrs Brazil said: “Kirklees had undertaken diagnostic work in late 2015 and at the beginning of 2016 and had a good sense of the problems in the service, but not necessarily the extent of them.
“Nor did they have the level of expertise in improving children’s social care services at leadership level to create a coherent, well co-ordinated improvement programme to address the quality of practice issues in a timely and effective way.”
Mrs Brazil ordered that Kirklees link up with Leeds City Council and that the Leeds director of social services take overall control. Steve Walker is the now the director of children’s services for both Kirklees and Leeds.
Colne Valley Labour MP Thelma Walker said she was “deeply concerned” at how vulnerable children had been let down – and said she would be holding council leader David Sheard and new chief executive Jacqui Gedman “to account.”
In a statement she said: “The commissioner’s report has shown that Kirklees Council does not have the capacity to deal with the issues alone, however I am encouraged that they will be working with Leeds City Council as National Partners in Practice to make sure that every child is helped and protected.
“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. I have been assured that no child has been harmed through the failings of Kirklees Council.”
Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin, shadow minister for early years, said: "In light of yesterday’s report, my first and primary concern is children’s safety and ensuring that the responsibility to children’s welfare is always met in Kirklees.
“I continue to be deeply concerned by the Ofsted report of 2016, and, I believe that every child should benefit from high quality support when they need it. For any child to go unprotected, or not to have their needs met, is unacceptable.
“I welcome the report and the news that Leeds City Council will work in partnership with Kirklees in order to improve the service.
“I am clear that there should be no delay in rapidly improving local Children’s Services. That’s why I have sought an urgent meeting with the Leaders of Kirklees and Leeds City Councils, to discuss their plans going forward.”
In a statement Clr Sheard said: “Eleanor’s report was actually completed in March but its publication was delayed by this year’s General Election.
“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.
“A new senior leadership team has been in place since early summer, headed by Steve Walker who is the now the director of children’s services for both Kirklees and Leeds.
“These new arrangements have strengthened and stabilised the leadership of children’s services , which is vitally important at a challenging time.
“We are seeing clear evidence of progress, though we absolutely recognise there is still a long way to go.
“We accept Eleanor’s findings and agree with her report. We would like to thank Eleanor for the support she provided over several months in Kirklees. We are also continuing to tackle a number of ongoing issues in children’s social care, such as implementing a new IT system, reducing social work caseloads, co-ordinating a complex area of work and recruiting more permanent staff.
“As the report makes clear, all political parties understand the challenge and have expressed strong support for whatever is needed. The additional support which has already come from Leeds – who have been on an improvement journey of their own and have emerged as a national partner in practice – is increasing the pace of change.
“The dedication of our workforce in supporting children and families is equally crucial, so it’s pleasing that Eleanor has highlighted the way staff are committed to their work and to their community. This is a very positive building block.
“We expect Ofsted to visit Kirklees in the near future for another monitoring visit, which will be a chance to demonstrate the progress we are undoubtedly making.
“At the same time, we have always been clear that improving children’s services can never be regarded as a ‘quick fix’. Whilst we do have areas of good practice, it is a long-term challenge to bring all of our work to the same high standard.
“The commissioner’s report is an important milestone and, although we have made significant improvements since it was written in March, it is helping to tighten our focus on what needs to be done.
“Keeping children and young people safe, achieving better outcomes and enhancing life chances is – and will remain – an absolute priority for the council and its partners.”