Cumbria council keeps control of failing children's unit

Cumbria County Council Image copyright BBC Sport
Image caption Cumbria County Council's Directorate of Children's Services was rated "inadequate" last year for the third time in four years

A county council can continue to run a children's services department judged "inadequate" for years, government inspectors have decided.

Cumbria children's services was rated "inadequate" three times in four years.

Ofsted inspectors criticised leadership and found "serious failures" in the way children in care were looked after.

Children and families minister Edward Timpson told the council he was satisfied it was "taking reasonable steps to address remaining weaknesses".

However, he warned that if improvement did "not continue at pace" he would need to consider whether the council could be allowed to continue to control the unit.

'Not at risk'

Labour council leader Stewart Young said there was "more work to do but we're definitely going in the right direction".

"We were disappointed with the most recent inspection but an awful lot of work has gone in over the last 12-18 months," he said.

Last year the Department for Education (DfE) appointed an advisor to help make improvements.

The authority was warned that, if sufficient progress was not made, an external body could end up running the department.

Mr Young said it was "never the case" that children were at risk.

He said a former director of public health had said "he couldn't put his hand on his heart" to say children were safe but "didn't say that children were unsafe".

The county council is currently carrying out serious case reviews after the death of 13-month-old Poppi Worthington from Barrow.

It was criticised by a family court judge for failing to follow national and local guidelines over the death of such a young child.

Mr Timpson said the impact of the reviews on the nature of intervention required by the council would be considered.

The children's services unit will be re-inspected in six month's time.

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