THE leader who had spearheaded a series of changes for Dorset children’s services, improving its rating, has been praised as she prepares to leave Dorset Council.

Councillors applauded Theresa Leavy, executive director of the service, at hear last Cabinet meeting.

The outgoing director, who is moving on to other work, said she could not think of a better place to mark her 40 years in children’s social services.

Portfolio holder for the service Cllr Clare Sutton ( Green Party, Rodwell & Wyke), spoke of Ms Leavy’s “extraordinary achievements” since joining Dorset in 2019.

She said that not only had she led staff through the difficult pandemic, but had reorganised children’s social services and achieved a ‘good’ rating for the department with Ofsted noting its outstanding leadership.

Other accolades include a range of projects to support children, young people and those leaving the care of the council at 18-plus; new support groups for foster carers and being one of only three authorities in the country to pilot new ways of working with wider family groups to support children.

Ms Sutton said the director had shown “a relentless focus on what is best for our children, young people and families, which had been instilled across the council.”

She said that Ms Leavy would be greatly missed by Dorset but part of her legacy was the amazing team she had built in the county who would continue her work.

Council leader Cllr Nick Ireland (Lib Dem, Crossways), said the service was “not in a great place” when Ms Leavy arrived in Dorset after a succession of leaders, none of which who had remained for long, some only filling the post on an interim basis.

“She leaves children’s services stable, and in a great place, not only that but as the envy of a lot of other councils around the country,” he said.

The outgoing director paid tribute to the support of politicians at the council, from all parties, and “the amazing workforce who have travelled with me.”

She also praised the children and young people the council look after who, she said, had contributed many of their innovative idea towards improving the service.