THE newly-appointed head of BCP Council's children's services insisted getting the department back on track was doable – but warned people had to be realistic over how long it could take.

BCP Council was heavily criticised in a recent Ofsted inspection,which rated the local authority's children's services as inadequate.

Within a matter of just weeks in the job, Cathi Hadley, corporate director of children’s services, was faced with the critical watchdog report which said there were "serious and widespread" weaknesses leaving vulnerable children at risk of harm.

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Ms Hadley, who turned around struggling services in West and North Northamptonshire, said efforts had already commenced on addressing the issues raised by Ofsted.

Discussing how the council improves its children's services rating, she told the Daily Echo: "First and foremost it is all doable, we just need to have the right people in the right spaces to enable that with the right support. You need resilience and we need to have an absolute belief, which I absolutely do, that we can do this.

"There are people who work for BCP Council in children's services who have absolutely been doing the best that they can and we just need to support them to do more and for us to meet the requirements in the improvement plan.

"I think we need to be realistic and we need to be able to support people to be part of this journey. One of the biggest concerns always is you get an inadequate and we get a flight risk of staff who go and then also we get people not wanting to come to the local authority.

"I would actually say if you are someone who has the passion to make a difference for children and families, you have some resilience and you really want to make a difference, the rewards here will be second to none because we really will make a difference."

BCP Council recently carried out a programme to recruit international social workers, with around 20 extra social workers appointed in permanent roles.

Ms Hadley admitted the "label of inadequate" makes for a "difficult recruitment ask" at a time when nationally there are challenges for local authorities up and down the country in social work staffing levels.

Ofsted is set to carry out a series of monitoring visits in the coming months, which will focus on specific areas of the council's children's services work.

Asked if she had set a goal for when the council will secure an improved rating, Ms Hadley said: "I would love to pick a date out of the air but what it is we are rated as inadequate and requires improvement to be good in children in care.

"There is a need for us to manage and work with the teams so we become compliant in some areas and then we build on quality and the building on quality is the challenge and the consistency of that quality.

"We need to build some really strong foundations on that work and that we do this in a measured way which actually enables us to move forward. I would want to see incremental changes and successes as we move forward at every point Ofsted come in so that when we get to the end of the six monitoring visits, when we have our Inspection of Local Authority Children's Services (ILACS), I want us to be requires improvement and, or, good in areas.

"Those monitoring visits, if they go the way we anticipate them going, we would probably be looking 18 months, but each monitoring visit will give us another understanding of where we have been and how we are building on those building blocks, so we have time to do that.

"Once we get to the end of those monitoring visits it will be a full ILAC and we should pretty much know the direction travel."