New director of children’s services at Northants County Council

Walter McCulloch
Walter McCulloch

Northamptonshire County Council has appointed a new director of children’s services.

Walter McCulloch has stepped up from his role as assistant director for early help to fill the top job vacated by Lesley Hagger last month.

Mr McCulloch has been working at the authority for the past year and had a previous two-year stint at the council from 2006-2008.

His appointment has been welcomed by cabinet member for children, families and education, Cllr Victoria Perry, who said it  was a ‘very positive appointment’.

She said: “Walter’s background is in social work, which is great as he has a good understanding of the issues we are facing.

“It is really positive that he would want to step up into the position as he knows exactly what he is taking on, which perhaps his predecessor did not.

“We are no longer in that dark place that we were in in 2013 when we were placed into special measures.”

Cllr Perry said the department had a number of issues including expensive care packages,  not enough foster carers and a high number of looked after children being cared for out of the county.

The authority looks after just over 1,000 children. It currently has 313 registered foster carers on its books.

It was revealed in June that 82 of the 172 social workers it hired last year had already left.

The councillor said: “We need to increase our numbers of foster carers.

“Numbers have fallen through the floor as enquiries have crashed because of the council’s financial situation.

“We also need to create and maintain a robust and permanent staff team , which will have huge knock-on effects across the service.”

New measures being put into place to improve the service include a dedicated area in NCC headquarters One Angel Square so that social workers can work together in a team rather than hot desking.

The Multi-Agency-Safeguarding-Hub which is run by the local authorities, Northamptonshire Police, and other agencies including education and health, will also be boosted from next month (September) by a new team of social workers dealing with initial referrals.