THE interim director of children’s services for St Helens Borough Council has agreed to stay on for another two years, it has been announced.

Jim Leivers joined the authority in March to lead the improvement project within children’s services, which were rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted last November, until the position was filled permanently.

This came after a decision was taken by the council in December 2019 to create a dedicated director of children’s services as part of a wider restructure of its senior management team.

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Previously, children’s services fell under the remit of Professor Sarah O’Brien, the executive director for people’s services and accountable officer for St Helens Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Three candidates were interviewed for the director of children’s services role in June.

However, St Helens Borough Council’s cross-party appointments committee did not recommend any of them for the position.

The council said at the time that it would advertise the post again in the autumn, with Mr Leivers agreeing to stay on until his replacement was found.

This never happened as a deal was struck with the Mr Leivers, who came out of retirement to carry out the role, to sign a two-year fixed-term contract.

St Helens Star: Jim Leivers, director of children’s services for St Helens Borough Council Jim Leivers, director of children’s services for St Helens Borough Council

Mr Leivers has almost four decades worth of experience working in children’s services, serving as director of children’s services in Oxfordshire County Council, Sandwell Council and Wokingham Borough Council.

He has also held the position of deputy director and assistant director of children’s services in a number of other councils.

Mr Leivers will continue in the role of director of children’s services with immediate effect.

Welcoming the appointment, Cllr David Baines, leader of St Helens Borough Council, said: “Jim has a vast amount of experience in leading children’s services, and I’m pleased that St Helens will benefit from his wealth of knowledge, at such an important time.

“Jim is passionate about transforming the life chances of young people and has been instrumental in the council receiving an improving picture of the service following a viit by Ofsted in August.

“I’m delighted that Jim will be staying with us to help with our continuing journey of improvement across children’s services.”

St Helens Conservative leader Allan Jones, who sits on the appointments committee, said the decision has his full support.

Cllr Jones said: “I believe that Jim Leivers is doing a fantastic job. When you hit rock bottom, there’s only one way.

“That way is up, and Jim is guiding us wonderfully well.”

Mr Leiver’s appointment is the second significant post at the local authority to be filled this month, after the council announced it had found a replacement for its executive director of people's services.

Mark Palethorpe will replace prof O’Brien, who is leaving the authority to executive director of strategy and system development for the Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership.

St Helens Star: Mark Palethorpe, St Helens Borough Council's executive director of strategy people's services and accountable officer for St Helens CCGMark Palethorpe, St Helens Borough Council's executive director of strategy people's services and accountable officer for St Helens CCG

The role is a joint post with St Helens CCG, and will see Mr Palethorpe act as its accountable officer.

Mr Palethorpe is currently the executive director for people’s services at Cheshire East Council, where he has held that position for the last three years.

He has previously worked for Cheshire West and Chester Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

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Geoffrey Appleton, lay chair of St Helens CCG, said: “I am looking forward to working with Mark when he takes up his new role at the CCG and council.

“I know he is fully committed to our integrated approach here in St Helens and am sure his experience of working across health and care in Cheshire East will benefit us in St Helens as we move forward on our St Helens Cares journey.”

Mr Palethorpe will take up the role in the New Year.