Andrew Christie has been confirmed as the new Children’s Commissioner for Northamptonshire, with Clare Chamberlain also joining as Support Commissioner.
The duo replace Malcolm Newsam, who recently resigned his position just a few days after being criticised by councillors for failing to turn up to meetings – although no official reason has yet been given for his departure.
Both Mr Christie and Mrs Chamberlain have had spells as the head of children’s services covering the tri-borough area of Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, and Westminster – with Mrs Chamberlain replacing Mr Christie when he retired from the role in May 2016.
Under Mr Christie, two of the three councils he covered had children’s services rated as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. He has also served as the non-executive director and chair of Birmingham Children’s Trust, and has also worked for East Sussex, Lewisham and Surrey.
Now both have been tasked with turning around the services in Northamptonshire in the short-term while also overseeing the transition to a new children’s trust ahead of two new unitary authorities replacing the county council in 2021.
The appointment was confirmed this afternoon as the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, found that the council ‘continues to fail to perform to an adequate standard’.
The government direction states: “The appointment of these children’s services commissioners is to continue the work being done with the council to improve children’s services in the area following a full Ofsted inspection in June 2019.
“The commissioners will continue to work on moving children’s services into a children’s service trust.”
Under a directive issued by the government today, the county council ‘must comply’ with any instructions of the Secretary of State or the Commissioner team ‘in relation to the improvement of the council’s exercise of its children’s social care functions’.
Mr Christie and Mrs Chamberlain will also steer the process of transferring control for children’s social care services from the county council to the new children’s trust from July 2020, and also transfer commissioning arrangements to the new unitary councils at the point they become fully operational.