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‘Learning from others’ appears to be the main focal point of government reforms that will see poorly performing children’s services taken over should they fail to improve. 

In what Prime Minister David Cameron states “will be one of the big landmark reforms of this parliament”, local authority children’s service departments that have a history of being inadequate will be immediately taken over. 

‘Sharper triggers’ will also be introduced so that emergency Ofsted inspections can be ordered if concerns are raised over a local authority’s children’s services performance. 

Whilst we’re yet to hear exactly what could ‘trigger’ an emergency inspection, whistle-blowing complaints or evidence of poor leadership are likely to be included. 

The intention, it appears, is to formalise a clear national response in addressing persistent under-performance. In what the government calls an ‘academy-style system’, any local authority rated as inadequate by Ofsted will have to show significant improvement inside of six months. If it fails to do so, a new service leader will be put in place and those from high-performing local authorities, including experts in child protection, will be brought in to address under-performance in the form of a ‘trust’. 

Already, work has started with six of the country’s best performing local authorities; North Yorkshire, Hampshire, Tri-borough (Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea), Leeds, Durham and Richmond & Kingston. They will be given academy-style freedoms to transform poorly performing areas. 

Running in parallel will be a drive to recruit new trust sponsors from charities, who will also offer expert guidance in turning around under-performing children’s services. 

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan will chair a roundtable discussion in early 2016, where local authorities and charities including Barnardo’s and the NSPCC will discuss the creation of new partnerships that will work to raise standards in struggling local authorities. 

There will also be an urgent review of Local Safeguarding Children Boards with a greater emphasis placed on centralising Serious Case Reviews. 

Crucially though, the What Works Network, which was originally set up in 2013, will be revived so that social workers across the country have access to examples of best practice. 

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