Norfolk County Council's children's services warned by government

The council has been given six months by the government to improve its children's services

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Norfolk County Council could face government intervention if its children's services do not see "rapid improvement", it has been warned.

Edward Timpson, parliamentary under Secretary of State for Children and Families, said the department had "widespread and systematic problems".

It follows another critical Ofsted report which said the authority was failing to protect its children.

The council has pledged to make improvements.

The findings are another blow for children's services, which has already been criticised by two previous Ofsted reports in the past six months.

Its last director Lisa Christensen stepped down in June following pressure from MPs and earlier this month the council pledged to invest an extra £16.5m in the department to solve its problems.

'Cause for concern'

In the latest report, children's services was found to be "inadequate" in all areas of inspection, which took place in July, and Ofsted said its problems were rooted in poor leadership.

It said the authority was "not carrying out its statutory responsibilities" and its ambition for looked-after children and care leavers was "too low".

Although some examples of good quality social work were outlined by the watchdog, it said they were inconsistent across the county.

In a statement, Mr Timpson acknowledged that the authority had "taken prompt action to secure improvement", but said the failures identified by three inspection reports gave him "great cause for concern".

He added the council had six months to improve, but "if at any point new evidence emerges that the council has not made sufficient progress to improving its services, I shall consider what further action to take".

Interim children's services director Sheila Lock said: "Ofsted and the government have voiced their concerns about the performance of this department and they are right to do so, because we need to do better by children, young people and families in Norfolk.

"Our performance isn't good enough and we must do something to change that.

"Improving services for Norfolk children and families is the reason why I am here, and I am certain that by pulling together, services can improve."

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