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Former Ofsted Executive is New County Chief For Children’s Safety

Published on: 5 Sep, 2020
Updated on: 8 Sep, 2020

Rachael Wardell, the new executive director of Children, Families and Lifelong Learning at Surrey County Council.

By Julie Armstrong

local democracy reporter

The county council has named Rachael Wardell to the post responsible for keeping Surrey’s 250,000 children safe, after the unexpected death of her predecessor Dave Hill in June.

Ms Wardell starts in December as executive director of Children, Families and Lifelong Learning, moving from a similar role in the London borough of Merton.

When Mr Hill joined in April 2018, he faced transformation of the service after an inadequate rating by Ofsted, and he said then the task would take three years.

After a fourth monitoring in November 2019, Ofsted said the quality of child protection was improving, though further work was required.

Ms Wardell, who worked in Merton since May 2018, said: “To be offered the opportunity of continuing the work Dave started is a huge personal privilege. Like many others, I was inspired by his approach.”

She previously spent five years as director of children’s and adult social services at West Berkshire Council and also worked for Ofsted for seven years, responsible for children’s policy projects in early years and social care.

Mary Lewis, SCC’s cabinet member for children, young people and families, said: “We were all very sad to lose Dave.

“He was all about evidence-based solutions and really looked all over the country for examples of best practice to follow.”

One such example was the No Wrong Door approach, taken from North Yorkshire, which aimed to avoid teenagers going into care through using temporary accommodation and conciliation work with families.

Cllr Lewis added: “The biggest worry now is with children not being at school the teachers haven’t seen them to realise how bad things may have been at home. We’ve already had a significant increase in referrals and a surge of need makes it hard to keep social workers’ caseloads down.

“It isn’t good to be without a person at the top in the middle of an improvement journey, especially in these circumstances, so we’re very excited to be recruiting such a well-qualified person.”

Surrey’s latest Ofsted visit due in April was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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