Bay's children services improved 'beyond recognition'

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Praised: Nancy Meehan - Credit: Torbay Council

Torbay’s beleaguered children’s services have shown major improvements, it has been revealed. 

The department was judged inadequate for a second time in 2018 following an inspection. 

A Government-appointed commissioner who has been overseeing improvements said that services had struggled for a decade but were now ‘unrecognisable’. 

Nigel Richardson praised the council’s new management team and political leadership for the changes. 

He announced that oversight of improvements would be stepped down from April because of the progress. 

The commissioner, who has been chair of the children’s services improvement board, told councillors he would be replaced by an improvement adviser, in a move approved by the Secretary of State. 

Mr Richardson said the council had a programme of sustainable improvements in place, although the pandemic had been a setback and there were still challenges with recruitment and retention of staff. 

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“The right ingredients are now in place, it’s just the relentless focus on making that happen that will continue to drive Torbay forward,” he told Torbay Council’s children and young people’s overview and scrutiny board. 

He said there was now a clear focus on outcomes for children, asking the question “Is anyone any better off?” as well as assessing the quantity and quality of services.  

He praised the clear vision of the council’s political leadership, a partnership of Liberal Democrats and Independents which took control after local elections in May 2019. 

He also praised the work of director of children’s services Nancy Meehan, who joined ther council as deputy director in October 2019.  She was confirmed as director in February 2020 and led the improvement plan. 

Mr Richardson also praised the council’s interim chief executive Anne-Marie Bond who was appointed in July 2020. He said she had refreshed the council’s commitment to the improvement process. 

He said leadership was a ‘key strength’ and there was a sense of enthusiasm and commitment across partners in the area. Mr Richardson added: “There is now a very clear vision, strategy and plan for improved services across Torbay.” 

Councillors have been told that the department has underspent by £4million of its £47million budget this year because of the success of the changes.