The council’s director of children’s services and the “independent chair” of the Croydon Safeguarding Children Board have both left their posts, Inside Croydon has discovered on the day that an Ofsted report found Croydon’s children services department “inadequate”.
No council statement has been issued regarding the departures of the senior figures – it’s almost as if they’d hope no one might notice – but the timing of both leaving their positions cannot be mere coincidence.
Ian Lewis, whose job title according to the council was “director of early help and children’s social care”, one of six directors within Barbara Peacock’s “People” division, left his post within the past fortnight.
Sarah Baker, who chaired the safeguarding board, has also stood down.
Baker, who took on the supposedly arm’s-length, independent role in March 2016, “no longer works for Croydon”, according to someone in Fisher’s Folly this afternoon.
Asked when Baker left, the council staffer said, “Very recently”.
Baker, a former healthcare professional who runs her own consultancy based in Tadworth, was based in Fisher’s Folly with six colleagues on the safeguarding board. There, they are supposed oversee and co-ordinate the multi-agency approach to ensuring that children in the borough are all well looked after.
In her most recent annual report, Baker summarised her position thus: “My job is to hold agencies to account for the effective coordination of the commissioning and provision of services for children to ensure that children are safeguarded and the welfare of children in the area is promoted.
“I provide independent challenge so each board agency partner and their representatives are held to account. My strategic role is to hold partners to account for the safeguarding arrangements for children in Croydon, the priorities of which are set out the CSCB business plan.”
The safeguarding board works together with charities such as Barnardo’s, the police and Croydon Voluntary Action, as well as government departments including the Home Office and Department for Education. Its website states that it provides, “a strong independent voice, leadership and strategic vision… Hold partners to account to ensure … [they] operate effectively in promoting the safeguarding, well-being and interests of children and young people and vulnerable people in Croydon.”
The safeguarding board’s responsibilities also include the undertaking of serious case reviews and “to ensure that the voices of children, young people and vulnerable adults are represented”.
Importantly, in her 2017 annual report Baker noted that, “To achieve this I have monthly governance meetings with the leader of the council, the lead member for children, the chief executive of Croydon Council and the executive director of People.”
Namely, those attending these monthly meetings would be Labour’s council leader Tony Newman and his cabinet member Alisa Flemming, plus Jo Negrini, the council CEO, and Peacock.
Today’s Ofsted report, following an inspection in July, found that the work of the safeguarding board was “inadequate”.
In his job, Lewis had responsibility across a range of important areas in the borough, including domestic violence, but also child protection, the youth offending service and looked-after children.
The roles of Baker and Lewis may now be handled for the next 12 months or so by the Commissioner, Eleanor Brazil, who was appointed this afternoon by the government to take charge of Croydon’s failing children’s services department.
In the Ofsted report, it found that the safeguarding children board had failed to improve its effectiveness despite an external review which found 10 key areas for improvement.
The work of Lewis’s department was found to be “inadequate” in three of five categories by the Ofsted inspectors.
- Damning verdict on Croydon’s ‘inadequate’ children’s services
- Commissioner appointed to oversee children’s services
- Negrini tells staff: ‘There are some things that we don’t do well’
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