Director of Children’s Services

Somerset County Council has announced it has terminated its contract for the services of interim Director of Children’s Services Peter Lewis.

It follows a series of disappointing reports into some of the Council’s Children’s Homes and Children’s Centres.

Mr Lewis will leave the Council immediately. As he is not an employee of the Council, there will be no pay-off and no pension payments.

The announcement came this afternoon from Chief Executive Pat Flaherty. “I came into my post six months ago, and I gave Peter and his team time to prove themselves to me. It is hugely disappointing that results have not matched expectations,” he said.

Mr Lewis was taken on by the Council 18 months ago, in part because of his national recognition as a leader in this industry.

“We have put in extra budgets and extra staff including more children’s social workers,” Mr Flaherty said. “This has brought improvements which the government has recognised but sadly not at the level or speeds anticipated and the current situation with our children’s homes and children’s centres is just not good enough.”

The high level departure comes just weeks after the Council announced it was closing down two of its children’s homes due to failings in the standards of care provided, poor management and safeguarding issues.

Preliminary findings of a recent Ofsted inspection of children’s centres in Taunton are also likely to result in a further “Inadequate” rating.

“When you make this much investment into Children’s Services, you expect results to match,” said Mr Flaherty. “Although we have seen improvement in some areas, it is too little and too slow. With the recent findings around Children’s Homes and Children’s Centres, I believe now is the time to be decisive, move forward and give fresh impetus to improvements to the support we give to vulnerable children.”

The Council is currently advertising for a permanent position of Director of Children’s Services. In the meantime the role will be held on a temporary basis by the CEO.