North Yorkshire Council Gets "Good" Grade for Children's Social Services
1:34pm 30th June 2014
North Yorkshire County Council puts the needs of children first and keeps them safe according to Ofsted, which has praised the authority highly for the effectiveness of its children’s services.
Ofsted’s judgement, in its latest inspection, has placed North Yorkshire amongst the top authorities in the country for its care and protection of children, grading it as ‘good’ in every category. Ofsted has also stated in its report that the authority “has clear plans in place” to become outstanding.
Inspectors praised a change of culture in North Yorkshire under a “new and experienced” Director of Children’s Service and senior leadership team, which has led to improvements in partnership working, the quality of services and outcomes for children and young people.
At a time when local authority children’s services are under intense scrutiny and criticism for failing to provide support to many at-risk children and for letting others slip through the net, Ofsted has clearly commended North Yorkshire for its early help services: describing children who are at risk of harm being “identified, supported and protected well”; and children most at risk receiving “timely and effective” multi-agency help.
“This excellent result reflects well on all staff in the service and their hard work and dedication to protecting some of the most vulnerable children in our county,” said Richard Flinton, North Yorkshire’s Chief Executive. “It also reflects on how well this council is maintaining important and frontline services throughout a difficult period of austerity. The work to protect children cannot be compromised.”
Ofsted praised the authority for “excellent workforce stability” and for its “ambitious, comprehensive and effective workforce strategy”. Ofsted also commended North Yorkshire’s “very good longer term financial planning” which, despite the tough economic climate, “has ensured the sustainability of the services for children, young people and their families, over the next five years”.
North Yorkshire has few social worker vacancies and does not need as a result to use agency workers, staff have manageable caseloads and are supported in their professional development. This means, the inspectors found, that most children enjoy positive and stable relationships with their social workers who know them, and their families, well. Social workers have regular and frequent contact with children and families and carry out “high quality” work. Social workers “talk knowledgeably about the children they are working with” and are sensitive “to their needs wishes and feelings” say inspectors. Despite the financial times they operate in, North Yorkshire has invested long-term “both financially and professionally”, in developing social workers’ practice and career paths in line with the authority’s ambitious vision for children’s social care.
Adoption services are judged by Ofsted to be good “with some outstanding examples of individual work”. Adoption is considered at the earliest stage in case planning for children where a return to their family would be unsafe or would not satisfactorily meet their needs. The county council runs six children’s homes – all judged to be good or outstanding. Disabled looked-after children with complex need benefit from high quality placements that meet those individual needs;
Good educational provision is in place for care leavers and the majority are attending local further education colleges, other education and training or university. Currently the authority is supporting 22 young people who had been in care into higher education with a good package of independent advice and guidance, financial support and on-going pastoral care. Ofsted also recognised how elected members “show a strong sense of corporate parenting responsibility with a clear understanding of the looked after children population”.
But Ofsted did make several recommendations for improvements the county council could make:
- Ensure that the experiences of children and young people are systematically evaluated as part of the local authority quality assurance framework.
- Improve the rigour of decision making when deciding to step up or step down local authority support, in particular where there is a complex family history including domestic violence.
- Improve the quality of the recording of plans, in particular early help and pathway plans. This should include a clear identification of the areas in need of change to enable a better evaluation of the outcomes of the work undertaken.
- Ensure that all children looked after have up-to-date medical assessments, immunisations, developmental checks and regular dental checks and that all care leavers have access to their health histories.
- Continue to improve access to child and adolescent mental health services for all looked after children; in particular ensure strength and difficulty questionnaires are used purposefully to assist individual planning.
- Ensure that all looked after children make good or better progress at each key stage of their education, particularly in Key Stage 4.
- Ensure life story work is provided in a timely manner to all looked after children who would benefit from this.
- Ensure that the needs of all children arising from age, disability, ethnicity, faith or belief, gender, gender identity, language race and sexual orientation are addressed in all assessments and care plans.
“The care and protection of vulnerable children is an extremely high priority for this authority,” said County Councillor Tony Hall, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Children’s Services, “and we are therefore extremely pleased that Ofsted has recognised the significant improvements we have made through the transformation of our services.”
“Ofsted has acknowledged that our performance is generally better than our statistical neighbours and that this good performance is sustained or improving against almost all indicators,” said Pete Dwyer, North Yorkshire’s Director of the Children and Young People’s Service. “Ofsted has also acknowledged that we continue to make improvements and are on the road for our services to become outstanding. We are among the very best authorities in England for the support and protection of children and we intend to maintain this very high standard of service.”
Professor Nick Frost, the independent chair of the North Yorkshire Safeguarding Children’s Board said: “On behalf of the North Yorkshire Safeguarding Board I would like to express how pleased we are with the outcome of this robust inspection. The Ofsted inspection of the Board has recognised the quality of the Board’s work across a wide-range of our functions. The Board is proud of our role in leading and co-ordinating inter-agency work to ensure that children and young people in North Yorkshire are kept as safe as possible”
|Get the latest local news direct to your inbox.
Sign up now for our email updates.