Senior leadership changes have caused ‘turbulence’ at Halton Council’s children’s department, with the authority now embarking on a 12-week plan to try and drive forward improvements.

A council report has lifted the lid on the impact of changes to the top levels at the borough’s beleaguered children’s services as it has tried to turn around its ailing fortunes.

The department has received a series of highly critical Ofsted inspections in recent years, culminating in the council receiving an order to improve by the Department for Education. Although its most recent Ofsted report said things had improved.

In addition,  the department also overspent its budget by £10m.

In March, the department’s head - Milorad Vasic – announced he was stepping down following a near seven year stint. Halton Council has been searching for a replacement, with Zoe Fearon, formerly of Salford City Council and a previous Halton Council officer, set to take over the role in late October.

A report due to be considered by Halton’s Children, Young People and Families Policy and Performance Board next week has outlined a three-month programme of improvement work designed to help get the department back on track.

It said: “Since the Ofsted Inspection in March 2020 there has been a continuous circle of priorities and plans, audits and reviews, two Ofsted focus visits including one which led to the issue of a DfE improvement notice and the creation of a children’s improvement board.

“Serial changes to senior staffing have introduced both turbulence and complexity. Covid contributed to the challenges faced by the service, as did  rising numbers of cases coming through the front door”

The report said the ‘turbulance’ associated with senior changes was stabilizing with the appointment of Ms Fearon and said a plan was in place to improve. It said this would involve building a ‘collective, coherent and connected leadership system’.

It said: “The core focus of our work is to ensure that children known to us are seen appropriately have a robust plan that takes account of their circumstances, wishes and aspirations. Where work with children does not swiftly improve their outcomes, escalation is timely and proportionate.”

The report added: “Currently our provision is not where it needs to be which is why the twelve-week plan is so important in re-establishing our base line practice to ensure that the good practice that exists across the borough grows and extends and provides a stable platform for the development of the good service we would all wish to see.”