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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Children in the care of the Nottinghamshire Councils Investigation Report

B.3: Governance

Management within the Councils

8. Although management structures have changed over time, staff within the children’s social care service have had day-to-day responsibility for all children in care in Nottinghamshire. The Director of Children’s Services within each of the Councils now has “professional” responsibility for the leadership, strategy and effectiveness of children’s services. This includes securing the provision of services to address the needs of children and young people.[1] The Youth, Families and Social Work Division of the County’s Children and Families Department is responsible for all children’s social care within the County, including fostering and children’s homes.[2] In the City, management oversight of children’s homes and fostering placements is the responsibility of the Head of Service for Children in Care, who operates within the Children’s Integrated Services directorate.[3]

The role of elected councillors

9. The way in which elected members have exercised governance responsibility for children in care has varied over time. Since 2004, both the County and the City have a councillor charged with specific accountability for children in care.[4] That elected Lead Member for Children’s Services has political accountability for the leadership, strategy and effectiveness of children’s services. This includes setting the priorities for children’s services and providing support and challenge to the Director of Children’s Services.[5]

10. Collectively, councillors act as the ‘corporate parent’ for children in care, which requires them to act in the best interests of children in care and ensure that they are kept safe.[6] Councillors also receive regular reports about children in care, including annual reports from the Fostering Service and the Independent Reviewing Officer service.[7] 

Oversight of children’s homes

11. The oversight of the Councils’ children’s homes has also developed over time:

11.1. Since the early 1990s, internal ‘inspections’ have been required by children’s social care every month.[8] These were undertaken by children’s social care managers until 2014, since when they have been undertaken by an independent person appointed by the Councils.[9]

11.2. From 1991 to 2004, children’s homes were also inspected by an ‘arm’s length’ body (structurally independent of those managers responsible for the operation of social services).[10] This involved at least two visits per year – one announced and one unannounced.[11]

11.3. Since 2000, all children’s homes have been required to register with the registration authority (currently Ofsted).[12] To maintain registration, a children’s home must have a statement of purpose, a children’s guide and prescribed policies and procedures, as well as prescribed staffing ratios and qualifications.[13]

11.4. Elected councillors have also made visits to homes on a regular basis (called ‘rota visits’) since the 1970s, and have reported their findings to a committee.[14] These visits vary in their effectiveness, with witnesses describing them as “next to useless”[15] and “widely perceived as a token”.[16]

References

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