Middlesbrough children's services chief steps down after damning report

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Middlesbrough Town HallImage source, Middlesbrough Borough Council
Image caption,
The council said it was "time for a change" following the Ofsted report

The boss of children's services at a North East council has stood down following a watchdog's report which found "serious and widespread failures".

Helen Watson, executive director of children's services at Middlesbrough Council, departed last week.

It follows an Ofsted report in January which found youngsters were left too long in harmful situations.

The council said it was working to address all the issues raised.

Ofsted inspectors concluded services had "deteriorated" since 2017 with risks not properly recognised and insufficient action taken to help children in harm's way.

In a statement sent to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, the local authority confirmed its acting director of children's care, Sue Butcher, will become director of children's services on an interim basis.

Middlesbrough Council chief executive, Tony Parkinson, thanked Mrs Watson for her work over three-and-a-half years but added "the shortcomings identified by Ofsted make it clear that it's time for a change".

In a statement, Mrs Watson said she wished to thank all staff who "work tirelessly to benefit the lives of children, young people and families in Middlesbrough".

'Serious' situation

Councillor Jon Rathmell, leader of Middlesbrough Independent Councillors' Association, said it was "inevitable... given the damning Ofsted report".

"What does need answering is why the chief executive remains in post," he added. "He came from a social care background and at the members briefings he stated that he was ultimately responsible and the report is not acceptable."

Conservative group leader, Councillor David Coupe, said: "We now need to move on and really make sure we get a grip on children's services because the situation is serious."

Councillor Matt Storey, Labour group leader, declined to comment.

Last month, the council approved a resource plan to coincide with a 12-week improvement project charged with turning children's services around.

A more comprehensive plan is being developed, it said.

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