Northamptonshire councils to appoint own directors of Children's Services as joint leader leaves post next year

The decision has been praised by Labour councillors who say a separate approach is the best way forward

By Max Pearson
Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 9:15 am
Angel Square.

Northamptonshire Children's Services has announced plans to appoint two new directors to replace the current single role.

The announcement has been made following the upcoming departure of currently unified director of Children's Services (DCS) Cathi Hadley, who will be leaving West and North Northamptonshire Councils in February 2022 to focus on her family.

The unified position was introduced for Northamptonshire County Council back in 2019, following years of poor performance by Northamptonshire's Children's services.

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It was intended to provide more consistent and quality support across the then county council. While most accounts say that Director Hadley has been largely successful in her position, advocates still believed that a more specialist approach was needed.

After talks between both councils it seems they will get what they want.

Conscious of the fact that during 2022 the councils will have a full Ofsted 'Inspection of Local Authority Children's Services' (ILACS), the council has decided to proceed towards separate DCS arrangements next year.

The council says that they want to have a continued strong focus on education and their SEND agenda, where they claim to have been making good progress on developing plans to improve and transform our educational services.

Cllr Fiona Baker, WNC's Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Education, said: “We are sad to see Cathi Hadley go and we want our childrens social care and education services to continue their journey with strong leadership with the right skills and capacity to be effective as we move to separate arrangements.

"We therefore want to take the opportunity in the coming weeks and months to shape the senior team that will take us forward and deliver on our ambitions for children, building on the good work of Cathi.

"Ahead of that we will be looking to implement interim DCS cover arrangements while we progress the recruitment options."

This decision has seen strong support from opposition councillors who have been calling for such an outcome since even before Ms Hadley's announcement. Now they say the focus should be on finding the best candidate possible to reach high standards for the service.

Emma Roberts, Deputy Leader for West Northamptonshire' s Labour Group and supporter of the decision added: "My reservation would be whether we have the time and space to take this approach. So I want to see swift action by way of the West Northants approach that is needed.

"We've got to look at longevity."

Councillor Roberts says she wants to see the successful candidate display the same 'consistency' and 'willingness to accept issues' that has reportedly been shown during Ms Hadley's tenure, and enabled the service to 'focus on recovery and rejuvenation'.

The changes will take place early next year, subject to council approval.