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‘Absolute commitment to support children and make improvements’ – reassurance given after Ofsted judgement

Published: Monday, 18th March 2019

Civic leaders have reassured families that the city council is taking immediate action to lead improvements to children’s services.

And is firmly committed to supporting and protecting children, after a critical Ofsted report.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council is making an immediate multi-million pound investment into services, has appointed a new management team and has made direct operational changes to improve responses to contacts from families and agencies. The measures have been announced after an Ofsted report published today (Monday) found children’s social care services to be inadequate.

Council leader Ann James said: “We take the ruling by Ofsted extremely seriously and are very concerned by the findings. In carrying out their inspection, Ofsted officials spent time with frontline social workers. They found that our workers are dedicated and work extremely hard to support children and families, but that there are a number of challenges with social work practice and that more support and challenge is needed from managers. It means that our practices are not robust enough to provide the best protection to meet the needs of our city’s vulnerable young people. This is unacceptable and we are committed to improving our service at pace for our children.

“The number of children entering our care in the city has increased significantly year-on-year. This is a contribution to our challenge but we accept that it is not the only reason why we find ourselves in this position.

“I’d like to reassure families that we have listened closely to all the comments from inspectors, have identified areas where improvements need to be made, and welcome the support of Ofsted and other partners in helping us to address these issues as quickly as possible. We are absolutely committed to supporting children in our city and improving our services – we will quickly move to a much improved position.”

The Ofsted judgement follows a three-week inspection in February. The report highlights 15 key areas which need to improve, including management oversight and direction, urgent and robust child protection responses, the capacity of staff, the quality of assessments and case recording, and support for vulnerable children.

The inspection regime used by Ofsted in its visit to the city is different than in previous inspections. It focuses on frontline work and observing practice, instead of a previous emphasis on policies and processes. It is the first time that council services have been examined in this way.

The report acknowledges that the council now has a new interim director of children’s services in post, and that a wholesale review of service provision is being undertaken, with partners, to address the issues identified. The report highlights ‘dedicated and committed’ social workers, that social work assistants are valued by care leavers and ‘demonstrate commitment and understanding of the needs of young people’, and that educational outcomes for children in care are ‘mostly positive’ when compared to national averages. Inspectors also found that some disabled children in need of help and protection receive a better service, supported by social care, education and health professionals.

Councillor Janine Bridges, cabinet member for education and economy, said: “I’d like to reassure families that we are determined to drive the changes that are needed. We have to get the foundations right so that we can deliver a service that is fit for the needs of young people today.

“Ofsted have given us a clear direction on where we need to improve, with a commitment that all agencies come together to implement improvements to services.

“We know what we need to do and have already started this work. A new children’s improvement board has been established, involving partners, which will include the police service, representatives from our schools and the Local Government Association. We are already working closely with Ofsted and the Department for Education to drive improvements for our children.

“We are also working with other authorities who have taken the journey from inadequate to outstanding, to learn from their practices.

“The needs of our city’s children will always remain at the centre of all we do. We have a new management team with the drive and commitment to bring about the changes needed. Our frontline staff work exceptionally hard in very difficult circumstances, and I would like to praise them for their hard work.

“In other areas of children’s services, we are delivering real, life-changing support to our city’s young people. More children now go to good and outstanding schools than ever before, we have successfully lobbied government for a new special educational needs school for the city, and our early years speech and language therapy work is a national leader, helping to ensure that children have the right skills and development to enter education and succeed. We will be bringing the same focus and drive to deliver the improvements needed in all of our social care services to ensure that they are fit for the 21st century."

For all media enquiries please contact the press office at Stoke-on-Trent City Council on 01782 232671.

View the report here