Statement from SCC Chief Executive, Patrick Flaherty

Somerset County Council has announced that Peter Lewis, Interim Director of Children’s Services, is no longer working for the authority.

The Council has terminated its contract for the services of Mr Lewis and is currently advertising for a permanent position of DCS

The wellbeing of vulnerable children is of paramount importance to the Council and it is completely committed to its Children’s Services. That is why, following the “inadequate” Ofsted report from a Protection of Children Inspection in 2013, it invested heavily in the service, financially and in terms of time and effort.

That investment included the services of Peter on a temporary basis. There have been improvements over the last 18 months but not enough. I have been in post for six months and I have not seen the kind of progress I expected in light of our investment and the priority we have given the service.

The decision follows recent announcements that we are closing two Children’s Homes due to failings in the standards of care provided, poor management and safeguarding issues. Preliminary findings from an Ofsted inspection into Children’s Centres in Taunton are also disappointing and likely to result in an “inadequate” rating.

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

Peter’s role with the authority was always temporary and, as an interim, there will be no additional costs to the Council from the cancellation of the contracts. There is no pay-off or pension contribution.

As a Council we are focused on the future and continued improvement so that we can give the vulnerable children in the county the best possible support.

We are currently advertising to the position of Director of Children’s Services started formally last week and we will be doing our best to make a suitable appointment as soon as possible. In the meantime, I will be holding the role on a temporary basis. It is, however, our intention to appoint an interim DCS to bridge the gap between now and the permanent appointment.

Looking after children in our care has been, and will remain, of paramount importance to this Council. I know there is a huge amount of good work going on in Children’s Services, done by many dedicated staff working long hours doing what is an incredibly difficult job. We look forward to welcoming a new DCS on a permanent basis and working with them to achieve the improvements that all of us want to see.

Pat Flaherty

Chief Executive

Somerset County Council

You can view a short video clip from Patrick Flaherty about this announcement here: