Intervention Level In Authorities Rated Inadequate by Ofsted

Inadequate LAs receive quarterly monitoring visits from Ofsted which are explained   here

This blog post analyses what is currently happening with  LAs rated inadequate by Ofsted.


Demos calls this “externalisation rather than outsourcing.” 

This is the hierarchy of possible intervention, the right hand side of the flow chart deals with “improvement” while the left hand side is about “direction.”  


This is the more radical option.

The first query is “sufficient evidence of persistent or systemic failure.” If the answer is “YES”, then the Government issues a statutory direction and appoints a Commissioner to assess whether services should remain with the council. 

IF the Commissioner’s verdict is that the authority is NOT capable of improvement, the next question is whether the local authority is co-operative or is resistant. If the council is co-operative, the Trust will be a partnership; if resistant, a Trust arrangement will be imposed on the council within the year.  (Sandwell for example is an imposed Trust


(IF on the other hand the Commissioner rules that the authority DOES  have capacity to improve, then the LA will move onto the right hand side IMPROVEMENT track.)


In the first instance, IF there is not “sufficient evidence of persistent or systemic failure” then the right hand side of the flow chart applies. (A local authority may also be moved onto the IMPROVEMENT track if it is assessed as being capable of improvement after persistent failure.)

There will be a Government-appointed Improvement Advisor (who may be an individual or a company) who will work with the council. Although this is not spelled out in the NAO flowchart, there is generally an Improvement Board which may be instructed to appoint an Independent Chair. 

A diagnostic review will be carried out within 3 months and within 6 months there will be a report to the Government. IF sufficient progress has been made, then progress must be maintained and will be assessed at a subsequent Ofsted inspection (which is not the same as  a quarterly monitoring visit) The outcome at the re-inspection stage will depend on whether the council is rated good, requires improvement or inadequate.

IF on the other hand, sufficient progress has NOT been made within 6 months, then as per the December 2015 statement, the council will be moved to the left hand side of the flowchart which deals with statutory DIRECTIONS. 

I will now try to assess where each LA fits in the above flowchart, based on information already in the public domain.




  • On 1 April 2019, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole local authority was created by merging the local authorities of Poole, Bournemouth and part of Dorset.
  • Serious weaknesses identified during Ofsted focused visit, November 2020 via this page 
  • It was reported in February 2021 that Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole [BCP] plans to increase its children’s services budget by 12% provide bonuses for social workers and overhaul front door services, to turn around performance











Herefordshire children’s services will undergo external review and an independently monitored improvement plan following case where social workers ‘ignored’ senior judge and experienced psychiatrist.  April 2021




  • Found inadequate by Ofsted August 2019    deterioration since last full inspection in 2015, primary focus on process and compliance, leaders over-optimistic, vulnerable children experiencing neglect over long period  More
  • DfE Direction   August 2019 appointing Eleanor Brazil as commissioner to investigate whether services should remain with the council
  • Commissioner’s report January 2020   significant doubts as to whether the LA can retain control of children’s services   More
  • Revised DfE Direction    January 2020, change and instability in management roles within children’s services, the Council is very finance driven and overly bureaucratic , the LA must co-operate with a leadership improvement partner to be appointed by DfE
  • Ombudsman critical of Medway ,   January 2020
  • Commisioner’s report December 2020 via this page
  • Revised DfE Direction  January 2021, removes threat of trust conversion from after commissioner finds progress in leadership, practice and workforce stability, appoints Gladys Rhodes White as Improvement Advisor


  • Found inadequate January 2020   a culture in which harm is tolerated, rather than one in which there is a focus on how to protect children More
  • DfE Direction   March 2020, appointment Children’s Commissioner Peter Dwyer
  • DfE Revised Direction    June 2020, LA allowed to keep control of children’s services to allow further improvements to be made, following recommendation by commissioner for children’s services, Peter Dwyer . While there has been some improvement, the Council is still failing to perform to an adequate standard.  More









  • Inspected under ILACS, judged inadequate Ofsted March 2019  Vulnerable children are not safeguarded in Stoke-on-Trent; services for children have seriously declined since the last full Ofsted inspection in 2015, and the majority of recommendations made at that inspection and at a focused visit in 2018 have not been actioned More   More
  • DfE Direction May 2019    LA must work with Government-appointed Commissioner Eleanor Brazil, who will report back to the Department for Education by 9 September 2019.
  • LA to redirect £5.5m into children’s services October 2019
  • Report into council services October 2019 , Eleanor Brazil, recommends continuing work with Essex and Stockport
  • Revised DfE Direction October 2019  must establish agreed formal partnership arrangement with ‘a strong-performing’ local authority to provide support delivering all of its children’s social care functions by end January 2020, accept support provided by Stockport and Essex Partners in Practice whilst a formal partnership is secured  More
  • Ofsted March 2020    children in Stoke not being kept safe More 
  • DfE Direction   March 2020  requiring the council to enter into a formal partnership with Leeds City Council; continue to co-operate with the Children’s Services Commissioner, Eleanor Brazil; accept support provided by Partners in Practice
  • Ofsted November 2020  continued serious weaknesses






  • Surrey First declared inadequate in 2008 (subsequently found “adequate” but then inadequate again in June 2015 (following inspection October/November 2014)
  • DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice  January 2016, Government appointed advisor Rose Durban.
  • Improvement Programme links here.                                                                           
  • Improvement Board  (chaired by Deputy Leader Surrey Council, ie NOT an Independent Chair)
  • Ofsted September 2016   (5th monitoring visit since deemed inadequate in 2015, beginning to make progress, from a low starting point, west of county is better than east)
  • Ofsted February 2017 continuing to make progress, more work to be done
  • Ofsted June 2017         continues to improve with notable progress in some areas 
  • Ofsted September 2017   some strengths + areas where improvement only recently accelerated +  some areas action required to address weaknesses
  • Ofsted November 2017 progress too slow, LA taking too long to address critical weaknesses   More
  • Dave Hill DC Essex to become DC Surrey, March 2018
  • Ofsted May 2018 full reinspection, still inadequate, leaders and elected members far too slow to accept and act on findings and recommendations of 2014 inspection,   more
  • 3 neighbouring councils (Hampshire, Essex and Hertfordshire) to assist Surrey + Commissioner to be appointed, May 2018    More
  • DfE Direction   June 2018 appointing Trevor Doughty as Commissioner
  • Ofsted October 2018   (via new page ) Not yet making sufficient progress  More
  • DfE revised Direction October 2018 Children’s Services to stay with the council for now, following Commissioner’s report    November 2018 More
  • Ofsted February 2019   experiences and progress of children in care and achieving permanence were judged requires improvement to be good
  • Audit report to scrutiny committee   March 2019 (Meeting link here) Director Children’s Services Dave Hill (previously Essex) blames lack of accurate data, uncovered by financial audit, on attempt to customise LiquidLogic software  More  
  • Ofsted June 2019   substantial progress in recently improving both the quality of management oversight and the practice standards of incoming contacts and referrals through newly implemented ‘front door’ arrangements  More
  • Ofsted December 2019   progress has been made
  • More   Commissioner assessment services to remain with council     January 2020
  • Next Ofsted monitoring visit due April 2020
  • DfE Revised Direction    March 2020, Trevor Doughty to act as Improvement Advisor rather than Commissioner










  • Darlington First declared inadequate  in September 2015 (found “adequate” in 2012)
  • DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice October 2015, work with  Red Quadrant as Government-appointed advisor                                                                   
  • Set up Improvement Board, Clive Harrison from Red Quadrant acting as Independent Chair 
  • Ofsted August 2016 praise for leadership but issues with social work capacity and quality of assessments
  • Ofsted November 2016  making steady progress in relation to August recommendations but deterioration in some further practice areas.
  • Ofsted March 2017   beginning to make some progress
  • Ofsted July 2017  steady progress maintained for children in need of help and protection, NOT been sustained for children looked after, recently appointed chair of the scrutiny committee has injected fresh energy into the role and committee members of the committee have had extensive mandatory training
  • Ofsted October 2017  improved workforce stability More
  • Ofsted May 2018 full reinspection moved out of inadequate to requires improvement 


  • Ofsted declared Kirklees inadequate November 2016,
  • DfE Direction Letter November 2016, appointment Eleanor Brazil as Commissioner  (also in Slough and Dudley, previously in Sandwell)   to assess whether control of children’s social care should be removed from Council 
  • Kirklees to spend £450K on temporary social workers, November 2016 (Cabinet Briefing Paper November 2016)
  • Kirklees Director Children’s Services resigns + staff announce strike January 2017
  • New DC Gill Ellis (previously Kirklees Learning and Skills, Nottingham City, Sheffield)
  • Kirklees Cabinet debates Improvement Plan and children’s services funding, March 2017
  • Merlin Joseph appointed Improvement Director April 2017   (previously Hillingdon, Bromley, Dudley)
  • Ofsted next monitoring visit due 27/28 June 2017
  • Reports that children’s services could be “taken over” by Leeds, June 2017
  • Strike action + more on Leeds takeover July 2017
  • Gill Ellis DC retires, replaced by Steve Walker also DC Leeds + additional members workforce Leeds July 2017     More
  • Ofsted July 2017 pace of change hindered by workforce instability and high social work caseloads  More
  • DfE seeking commissioner, July 2017 average 4 days per month for 12 months, costs up to £48,960.  Tender document 
  • Systemic failure, DfE July 2017
  • Commissioners Report completed March 2017, published September 2017, LA unable to make required improvements, must look at alternatives, Leeds to provide assistance in short term, willing to look at longer-term formal partnership, being President of ADCS during time of decline meant then Director of Children’s Services was away from Kirklees too much  More
  • Ofsted December 2017   pace of change too slow, widespread and serious failures, deterioration in management of risk to vulnerable children and quality of decision-making and assessment
  • Ofsted April 2018  small amount of progress in strengthening foundations for service improvement
  • Revised statutory direction January 2018  LA must have partnership agreement with Leeds council for the latter to deliver all Kirklees children’s social care functions, Director of Children’s Services Leeds is also to be Director for Kirklees,  DfE to undertake performance reviews every 6 months
  • Ofsted August 2018     pace of improvement increased,  more to be done
  • Ofsted January 2019   significant improvement since last monitoring visit
  • Ofsted August 2019     moved out of inadequate to requires improvement More  
  • January 2020

  • Lambeth  First declared inadequate in May 2015
  • DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice (December 2015, work with Government-appointed advisor Morning Lane Associates consultancy jointly set up  by Isabelle Trowler, now Chief Social Worker for Children and Families, and Steve Goodman both formerly in Hackney, see National Audit Office inquiry into potential conflict of interest, October 2016)
  • Ofsted August 2016 (some progress but must improve more quickly)
  • Ofsted December 2016 pace of change improved since the last visit, progress from very low base, SW turnover still too high
  • Ofsted June 2017   continuing to make progress from a low base
  • Ofsted September 2017   lack of professional curiosity   More
  • Ofsted December 2017 final monitoring visit prior to planned re-inspection in 2018, continued improvement work remains to be done
  • Ofsted May 2018   full reinspection moved out of inadequate, now requires improvement, more    

  • Manchester  First declared inadequate in September 2014
  • DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice (March 2015, Government MAY appoint advisor, Council must set up Improvement Board including Independent Chair Edwina Grant (also with the Local Government Association and Chair of Solihull Local Safeguarding Children Board)
  • Investment ahead of Ofsted, July 2016 (“From a financial perspective the Prime Minister’s announcement in December 2015 indicates potentially significant financial implications for local authorities that fail their Ofsted multiple times”)
  • Ofsted October 2016 (made some progress)
  • Ofsted January 2017   made some progress More
  • Ofsted June 2017   areas of strength, areas where improvement is occurring, and areas that require more focus and development (* visit was in MARCH but publication of letter delayed by general election)
  • Ofsted July 2017  progress still mixed (* visit was in June)
  • Ofsted December 2017 out of inadequate, moved to requires improvement More


 Reading First declared inadequate in 2009 and again in August 2016




  • Slough First declared inadequate in 2011
  • Children’s Services Trust took over responsibility for the provision of children’s early help and social care functions along with specific special educational needs services on behalf of the council in September 2015.
  • DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice September 2016  (council gets back school attendance, children’s centres and early years sufficiency and funding from the Independent Trust, to be reviewed in March 2017. Commissioner Eleanor Brazil
  • Perspective from the Trust,  October 2016.                                                           
  • Ofsted monitoring letter, December 2016   improvements in first year of Trust  but much remains to be done          
  • £1.4m Innovation Funding new delivery model
  • Ofsted March 2017  making promising progress from a very low base  
  • Ofsted July 2017 Progress but still too variable
  • Ofsted October 2017   some improvement from low base More
  • DfE Direction October 2017
  • Ofsted February 2018  progress in some areas but weakness in management oversight  More
  • Chief Executive Nicola Clemo “steps down”, February 2018
  • Andrew Bunyan new interim CEO April 2018
  • Ofsted May 2018    positive improvements but not consistently good. More
  • Lisa Humphreys new Chief Executive    More on Lisa Humphreys   from the Transparency Project
  • DfE evaluation July 2018    Taking an ‘inadequate’ children’s services department out of a council’s control has been a “catalyst” for improvements, but not a cure-all, an independent review has found.  The review also highlighted a number of lessons from the trust’s early days, during which time its relationship with its parent body, Slough council, was described as “tense” and “dysfunctional”.
  • Ofsted March 2019   moves out of inadequate to “requires improvement” 
  • Directorate structure chart March 2019
  • DfE Direction May 2020  (NB this 5th Direction does NOT replace the fourth Direction issued in October 2017 – except re appointment Commissioner see below – which required Slough Children’s Services Trust to transfer their services for children with SEN to Slough Borough Council.)  Trust to transfer to direct council ownership July 2020, Trevor Doughty appointed Commissioner   More  


  • Ofsted April 2017   Council failing to meet ‘basic social work standards; Tower Hamlets was placed in the hands of government-appointed commissioners in 2015, with full powers only being restored to the council in March 2017 Political changes  More   
  • DfE Direction September 2017   appointing  Lincolnshire County Council  and Islington as Intervention Advisers  (Partners in Practice) More + Alan Wood (DfE Advisor, formerly in Hackney, former president ADCS, author of Wood Review advising scrapping LSCBs) as Chair of Improvement Board. More 
  • Ofsted January 2018    some improvement but more work to be done   More
  • Ofsted May 2018  reviewing out-of-hours emergency duty team + service provided to children at risk of being radicalised, gangs, knife crime More
  • Ofsted September 2018   Some improvements but still considerable weaknesses More
  • Ofsted January 2019   improvements in care planning More  
  • Ofsted April 2019   final visit before full reinspection finds some improvements More
  • Ofsted July 2019   moves out of inadequate, now rated “Good” 


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