Somerset

Somerset County Council called to meet government over children's services

Somerset County Council
Image caption The county council said a meeting with children's minister Edward Timpson was 'due to take place shortly'

Somerset County Council has been summoned to a meeting with the government over ongoing failings in its children's services department.

Children's minister Edward Timpson has written to the authority to express his "great concern" over a failure to improve "inadequate" Ofsted ratings.

The director of children's services, Peter Lewis, left his role after "faster improvement" failed to happen.

The Department for Education said the failures were "very serious".

In the letter, which has been seen by the BBC, Mr Timpson said he was concerned "that fourteen months since being rated as inadequate by Ofsted, the service has not improved to a sufficient standard".

He wrote: "It is clear that failings in Somerset County Council's provision persist, despite my Improvement Notice and the clear direction I gave when I met with you on 11 June 2014."

'Entirely expected'

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "Any failure in children's services is very serious. We are concerned to hear about developments in Somerset and are carefully monitoring the situation.

"We issued Somerset Council with an Improvement Notice last November that made clear what steps need to be taken to ensure that their arrangements for the protection of children are rigorous."

A council spokesman confirmed a letter requesting a meeting had been received, and said it was "perfectly routine and is entirely expected", following the departure of a director of children's services.

"The government recognised improvements in our children's services but sadly not at the level or speeds anticipated. A meeting is due to take place shortly."

Lib Dem MP for Wells, Tessa Munt, said she was "horrified" council officials had been summoned to meet the government.

On Thursday, an Ofsted report into two residential children's homes deemed services "inadequate" in all areas at West End Cottage at Chedzoy and Appledore near West Pennard, both run by the county council.

One of the homes has now closed, and the council is in the process of moving children out of the second.

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