22 June 2015

Children’s services ‘require improvement’ - Ofsted

The council’s children’s services have made steady improvements over the past two years to the quality of social care in the city and have no serious failings, according to Ofsted.

During a four-week long inspection Ofsted found that when children are at risk of harm, social workers recognise it and quickly take the appropriate action to protect them.

However, inspectors have made it clear that they require further improvements before they can give the council an overall ‘good’ rating.

They noted that the leadership of children’s services is good and that looked after children experience good progress and support from the local authority.

Children who are disabled have social workers who understand their needs and are good at assessing with them what services will help them and their families best.

Ofsted’s report says some core functions still require improvement to be good. When children and young people go missing, it says the authority’s response is not yet sufficiently consistent or robust.

Inspectors also expressed concern that recent performance to call early child protection conferences had ‘declined’.

However, inspectors said good use was being made of performance and quality assurance processes to drive improvements through. They also recognised the effectiveness of the council’s new multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) and said appropriate child protection thresholds were consistently well applied.

In a separate report, published the same day, Ofsted rated the city’s independent Local Child Safeguarding Board (LCSB) arrangements, chaired by Graham Bartlett, as ‘good’. 

The chair of the council’s children, young people and skills committee, Councillor Tom Bewick, said: “We have to do more to ensure that the city’s 50,000 children and young people receive an outstanding service from the local authority.

“As a parent and recently elected member, I know that our residents will have high expectations of such an important, sensitive and challenging aspect of the council’s work.

“That said, I am reassured by the inspectorate's findings in other parts of our work supporting children, which they generally found to be good.

“The quality of our work to identify and address both child sexual exploitation and the risks of radicalisation has been acknowledged. Inspectors noted the high levels of satisfaction our adopters have expressed with our services.

“We are acutely aware of both Ofsted’s and the city’s high expectations. We have already begun to put in place measures to act on areas of weakness, which will involve the whole council and wider community becoming a real champion for the attainment of outstanding children’s services in future.

“We are also very aware of the need to recruit more foster carers. I’m determined to secure a good rating with the ambition to become an outstanding authority, as rated by Ofsted, within the next three years. We will not accept second best for our children, young people and families.”

Pinaki Ghoshal, executive director of children’s services, said: “Our staff work very hard to protect children who are at risk and to help improve the lives of families who are having difficulties.

“We understand the need to change the way we manage and deliver some of our services and will continue to make further improvements.

“I’m pleased that Ofsted has recognised that we are already addressing all the recommendations they have made and that we are on the right path to making the improvements necessary.”