THE Government has issued a formal "Improvement Notice" to Wirral Council following a devastating Ofsted inspection into child safeguarding.

The official document was sent to the town hall on Friday and warns that unless significant steps are taken, secretary of state for education Justine Greening will use her statutory powers to make an "intervention."

It is signed by Suzanne Lunn - "a senior civil servant in the Department for Education" - who writes that its purpose is: "To address all the areas for improvement identified in the report of the inspection of services for children in need of help and protection."

Also included are "looked-after children, care-leavers and the review of the effectiveness of the local safeguarding children board."

It says the views of frontline staff and those of children and young people will be taken into consideration "in the development of practice and standards."

And it concludes: "Should the council be unwilling or unable to comply with this improvement notice - or should ministers not be satisfied with the council'’s progress at any stage - ministers may choose to invoke their statutory powers of intervention to direct the council to enter into an appropriate arrangement to secure the improvements required in children’'s services"

The Ofsted report published last Tuesday found child care services in Wirral are "inadequate" - the lowest rating possible - and brought to light a shocking catalogue of serious and widespread failings.

It said vulnerable children are being subjected to unacceptable delays in receiving care, leading to them facing ever-increasing risks.

The probe revealed senior managers and political leaders have not provided effective and stable leadership for the service over the last three years.

And it also branded as "inadequate" Wirral's child safeguarding board - set up to protect youngsters from abuse - saying its members have failed to ensure they are free from being influenced by politicians.

In response to a Globe request for a statement last week, Labour council leader Cllr Phil Davies said an extra £2m will be invested into child safeguarding.

He said that on the day Ofsted's findings were published, "we held a meeting between senior officers from the council and Department for Education officials."

Councillor Davies continued: "Together we discussed the report’s findings, the frank recommendations it made, and our next steps.

"As part of the process to make the necessary changes, we have established an improvement board and invited representatives of partner organisations like the police, NHS and the other political groups on Wirral Council to participate.

"This is an important step in the process of understanding what went wrong, what needs to happen and for rebuilding confidence.

"The board will also have two independent members, one to chair it and the other an independent advisor appointed by the Department of Education.

"We agreed to have this board meet and determine a course of action in the coming three weeks, and be responsible for producing an action plan by the start of December.

"Department for Education senior advisors will be back in six months to check on our progress on delivering our plan.

"This is our collective top priority."


The Local Government Association has on its website helpful advice for council leaders confronted by an Ofsted bombshell on child care.

It says: "As lead member you hold political responsibility for the leadership, strategy and effectiveness of local authority children’'s services and will work closely with the director of children'’s services who carries the professional accountability.

"Effective, speedy and sustainable improvement requires leadership, transparency and honesty, financial commitment, and an openness to sector support and guidance.

"Cross-party political commitment is needed, as well as robust challenge and support by elected members to ensure the appropriate measures are being put in place.

"It is important to remember that the Ofsted inspection often only identifies the symptoms of the issues affecting the service.

"You will need to fully understand all the issues before beginning to address them"

Given that advice, Conservative councillors have slammed Cllr Davies' recent announcement he will be travelling to China on a "trade mission" on October 23.