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Government backing for town's children's services

The Government has signed off a report recommending that Middlesbrough Council's children's services department no longer requires direct oversight from a commissioner.

Children and Families Minister Will Quince MP has backed the recommendation of Department for Education commissioner Peter Dwyer.

Mr Dwyer has worked closely with the Council on its improvement journey since January, 2020.

Visits by the commissioner have noted progress being made in the town and a report following a review in July has now been approved.

In his report, Mr Dwyer stated: "Considerable progress has been made and there is evidence of real impact.

"Most impressively in the face of significant demand and need, the council has tackled legacy issues which had inflated the volume of cases in higher tiers of provision."

The commissioner noted specific improvements including a reduction in children on child protection plans and a speeding up of assessment timeframes.

The number of children in care fell from a peak of 702 in August, 2020 to 539 in July, 2021.

Director of Children's Services Sue Butcher has welcomed the minister's decision.

She said: "This is a real step forward and a testament to everyone who has worked towards this goal.

"Everyone in the department is giving their all to support Middlesbrough's most vulnerable children and families. It's a true team effort and we're well aware of how much hard work still needs to be done."

Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: "To have the commissioner's recommendation signed off by government is a boost to everyone working so hard to turn the department round.

"I'd like to thank the commissioner for his support and guidance.

"We're committed to working alongside Ofsted, the Department for Education and all our partners to keep things going in the right direction."

In addition to signing off the commissioner's recommendation, the minister has also approved the Council's bid for £330,000 in additional funding to support the children's services improvement journey.