Birmingham & Black Country

Jacqui Smith to head Sandwell's children's services

Jacqui Smith Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jacqui Smith, who was MP for Redditch for 13 years, takes up the role this month

Former home secretary Jacqui Smith will chair a new trust tasked with turning round a children's services department.

The government-appointed trust was set up after the services at Sandwell Council were ranked "inadequate".

Mrs Smith will head the new Sandwell Children's Social Care Trust which is being asked to bring "rapid improvements".

She said she relished the opportunity of improving the lives of vulnerable children and families in Sandwell.

Mrs Smith added: "My job is to help build that team by challenging us all to find the best ways to improve and innovate - and by making the trust a great place to work."

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Sandwell's children services was rated inadequate in June 2015 after another poor rating in 2013.

'Clear vision'

Ofsted inspectors in 2015 said the department did "not fully understand the scale and prevalence of child sexual exploitation".

"There are widespread and serious failures that create or leave children being harmed or at risk of harm," the report found:.

An Ofsted inspection last year found "positive progress" had been made.

Image caption Sandwell Council said it was striving for "rapid and sustained improvements".

Timeline of problems at Sandwell Council children's services

  • June 2015 Service is again rated inadequate, Ofsted warns of "widespread and serious failure that leave children at risk of harm".
  • October 2016 Monitoring visit sees "positive changes" in the department since it was last visited in 2015 but "areas of concern remain." Department will be taken over by a trust.
  • January 2017 Third monitoring visit since 2015 says "the local authority is not yet making satisfactory progress overall to improve services".
  • February 2017 Jim Leivers becomes the interim director of children's services after Matthew Sampson and director for children and families Sharon Moore stand down
  • June 2017 Ofsted inspectors report "insufficient focus on the quality and standards of practice, and the pace of change" in fourth interim visit.

The council said since the announcement in October 2016 that an independent trust would run the services, it had worked with commissioner Malcolm Newsam and the Department for Education.

Council Leader Steve Eling welcomed Mrs Smith's appointment and her "wealth of experience".

"With the setting up of the trust, we want to build on recent improvements with a board that will focus on providing a clear vision, be innovative and strive to deliver rapid and sustained improvements," he said.

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