Answers wanted from Northamptonshire's Children's Commissioner

Cllr Jane Birch wants some answers from the Childrens Commissioner Malcolm Newsam in light of the two recent serious case reviews into the death of two Northamptonshire children.
Cllr Jane Birch wants some answers from the Childrens Commissioner Malcolm Newsam in light of the two recent serious case reviews into the death of two Northamptonshire children.

A councillor concerned about the state of children’s services in the county wants the Government-appointed children’s commissioner calling the shots to come up with a new plan.

Labour Cllr Jane Birch, who is shadow member for children’s services, wants the full council to back her motion being put forward on Thursday.

The former teacher wants commissioner Malcolm Newsam to draw up a plan that will focus on early prevention and more integrated work between housing authorities and children’s services.

Children’s services in Northamptonshire have been deemed to be failing by Ofsted with a wide range of problems cited. Children taken into care are sometimes being placed many miles away from home and even in unregulated accommodation.

In June serious case reviews into the deaths of two Northamptonshire children killed at the hands of their drug dealing father figures found children’s social service and other public agencies could have done more to help them.

Cllr Birch’s motion says: “This council is aware of the government instruction to create a children’s trust for the provision of children’s services in the Northamptonshire area, serving two unitary authorities.

“We are aware there is a children’s commissioner in place to oversee this process.

“This council will, therefore, write to the children’s commissioner for Northamptonshire asking him to respond to the following: In the light of recent serious case reviews, and taking into consideration the latest Inspection report, we understand that for children’s services to improve there needs to be • a return to multi agency locality working. • a focus on early help and prevention. • better integration of housing and children’s services and a more effective transition from children’s to adult social care.

“Can the children’s commissioner provide the council with a programme that addresses these aims? Or, if his aims are different, can he please advise? Please can a report come to the next full council?”

The proposal to have an independent children’s trust in Northamptonshire was signed off by Government earlier this year and is backed by the commissioner. In a report in May he had advised against splitting children’s services along the lines of the two proposed unitary authorities due to be created in April 2021.

Mr Newsam is not often seen at public meetings and may not be at the full council meeting.