Michael Rosen, the Director of Children’s Services at Norfolk County Council has today announced he is moving on from his role.

Michael joined the council as an interim assistant director for early help in 2013 and became the Director in September 2015.childs_services-rosen

Speaking of his decision to leave the authority today, he said: “Children’s services in Norfolk has come a long way and is a very different service from when I started. I’m pleased that inspectors have seen improvement in all the areas they reviewed, but there is still more to do and Members have indicated a desire for a change in our approach.

“In my view the immediate improvement priorities for Children’s Services need a Director with a different skill set if the continuing challenges in that part of our service are to be addressed at the pace Norfolk’s children deserve. The urgency with which these challenges need resolving has led to my decision to create space for a new Director to be brought in as soon as possible. I am sure that the talented and committed staff of the Department will respond positively in maintaining their current focus on rapid improvement at all levels with continued support from Members and corporate leadership for the direction of travel. “

Publication of the quarterly monitoring letter by Ofsted Inspectors this week highlights signs of improvement in social care services for children in Norfolk but also says services are not yet consistently ‘good enough’ across the board and the overall pace of improvement remains slow.

Among the improvements set out in the letter, inspectors highlight:

-The ‘robust’ initial response to child protection issues;
-Strengthened and effective arrangements for managing risks to children who go missing or are at risk of sexual exploitation;
-Care leavers services which are starting to deliver better outcomes for young people.
Chairman of children’s services committee Roger Smith said: “Michael has made an important contribution to strengthening children’s services which has made a notable difference to the lives of vulnerable children. We are determined to do everything possible to get our services to be rated as good – that is what Norfolk children deserve.”

The  County Council claims Michael’s legacy includes improvements across both education and social care and that the percentage of schools rated good or outstanding is now above national average, with standards at all key stages improved and some schools now among the best in the country; achievement at early years, NEET (not in education, employment or training) rates, and for vulnerable children, including children in care, is substantially improved and in some areas exceeding national standards; that there is an increasingly effective early help offer.

The Council reports that Mr Rosen has overseen a significant expansion of services for children with emotional well-being and mental health needs such that Norfolk already exceeds the national expected service levels embedding improvements in help and protection, evidenced in Ofsted monitoring letters of June and October 2016 and that the quality of assessments and casework improved from a baseline of ‘requires improvement’ with some inadequate work in October 2015 to a place where OFSTED noted some very good work by October 2016 despite services being not consistently good.
The Council also claims substantial improvements to quality of services and outcomes for children in care and care leavers, noted particularly in the monitoring visit of October 2016; gradual improvements in use of performance information and strategic planning and improved relationships between the authority and the majority of its foster carers.
There has been an overall reduction in complaints about the service, with effective action to contain and reduce overspends, innovative approaches to recruitment and staff development, and implementation of an accommodation strategy that improved access to services and working conditions for staff.

The claims from the County Council do raise questions – if so much progress has been made why has the Director departed immediately after the Ofsted report? Further, how will staff morale in a service that has been severely depleted of funds by Government cuts be maintained in the future?