New children's commissioner has started at Northamptonshire County Council

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The new children’s commissioner drafted in to save Northamptonshire’s failing children’s service department has started work.

Despite the lack of an official announcement from central government, experienced commissioner Malcolm Newsam is in post and is getting to grips with what is going on within the in-crisis department.

Speaking at yesterday’s overview and scrutiny committee lead member for children’s service Cllr Victoria Perry told fellow councillors: “I have met him on a number of occasions. He has got struck right in. He has been meeting the teams. He needs some time to form a picture. He was the commissioner at Rotherham and he sorted them out.

“He needs to go out there and find out on the front line what he is dealing with and we need to respect that.”

Cllr Perry also indicated that the costs of the commissioner may be covered by the Department of Education.

Northamptonshire taxpayers are already picking up the £1,500 daily bill for two part -time commissioners drafted in by central government in the wake of a highly critical report from inspector Max Caller.

The Government made an announcement two weeks ago that a commissioner was needed was following a damning letter from lead commissioner Tony McArdle that declared that leadership within the children’s services was failing and a terrible Ofsted review.

The department has been struggling for many years following an Ofsted inspection in 2013 which placed it in special measures. In 2016 it moved up to the still below-par requires improvement category but it has once again been set back.

Ofsted inspectors found that 267 children were without an allocated social workers and that staff were ‘drowning in case work’.

At the meeting Labour’s Cllr Danielle Stone said all councillors needed to take responsibility for the department’s failings.

She said: “I think our children’s services is in a very precarious position and we as local politicians need to take the rap for what is going on. We need to be a lot more active and pushing for what our children and our communities need. I think we need to make really clear what our expectations our.”

Malcolm Newsam’s most recent appointment was as children’s commissioner for Sandwell council in the west midlands.

Northamptonshire County Council’s previous director of children’s services Lesley Hagger, who ran the department from June 2016 to June this year, has now become director of children’s services at Sandwell.