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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

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Cumbrian children's boss quits

The woman who has led Cumbria’s troubled Children’s Services Department for three years is stepping down.

juliamorrisonnn4
Ex-boss: Julia Morrison

Julia Morrison has presided over a period when child protection services in the county were repeatedly criticised by Ofsted inspectors for failing to adequately protect the most vulnerable youngsters.

The authority has now embarked on a series of changes – including the recruitment of more social workers – following an ‘inadequate’ rating from Ofsted for its child protection work.

Cumbria County Council today praised Ms Morrison, who has been on leavefor health reasons for three months, though her departure was welcomed as a fresh start by one union.

The council statement said: “After three years of dedicated service to Cumbria’s children and young people, Cumbria County Council’s director of children’s services, Julia Morrison, has decided to pursue interests outside thecounty.

“Cumbria’s children and young people were always Julia’s first priority and she championed them with energy and spirit during her time with the council.

“We thank her for her commitment and wish her well in her new endeavours.”

Reacting to the news, Deborah Hamilton, from the public sector union Unison, said: “Ofsted has always said that there was an issue with the management of this service in Cumbria, and they wanted to see strong management and leadership. It now seems obvious that it is the right thing for Julia Morrison to move on.

“This gives Cumbria a fresh opportunity to continue to rebuild this service and meet the challenges that have been put forward by Ofsted.”

In recent months, the pressure on children’s services to improve has been intense. The watchdog recently told the authority it needs to “speed up” its efforts to improve, though council chiefs insist that they are making good progress.

In June last year, Ofsted rated the child protection service ‘inadequate’ after revealing how some children were left at risk.

An inspection in 2012 also identified serious weaknesses in the department’s work to protect the county’s most vulnerable children.

Following the most recent ‘inadequate’ rating for child protection services, officials pointed out that Ms Morrison’s “leadership” was praised by inspectors.

The outspoken former Cumbrian public health chief Professor John Ashton last year called for her resignation, saying the service needed new leadership.

Earlier this week, the children’s services department was in the headlines after it emerged that a boss who was suspended after her department in the West Midlands was rated ‘inadequate’ has been given a job in Cumbria working with vulnerable children.

Helen Smith – who worked in senior roles in children’s services – is now in charge of the county’s children in care services.

Senior officers and councillors pointed out that her Sandwell authority already had problems when she took up her role, and said that they have full confidence in her professionalism and commitment.

PColeman@cngroup.co.uk

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