The services Leeds provides for vulnerable children have been rated as ‘Good’ with outstanding leadership, management and governance, by government inspectors, Ofsted, in a report out today.
Following a rigorous and thorough inspection in to the services the council provides for children in need of help and protection, children in care and care leavers, Ofsted inspectors rated Leeds as ‘Good’ overall – making it the only ‘core city’ in the country to be rated so highly (of those inspected under the new framework).
The inspectors highlighted many aspects of the council’s children’s services as good and acknowledge the swift progress which has been made over the past five years. One of the main elements which brought praise from the inspectors was the leadership, management and governance which was rated as ‘outstanding’ – there is only one other authority in the UK which has achieved this rating. The report states that: “Children’s services in Leeds benefit from outstanding, inspirational and confident operational and political leadership”.
The report out today also rates the effectiveness of the Leeds Safeguarding Children Board as ‘good’ and says it has ‘effective leadership’.
Amongst the council’s key strengths highlighted in the report are:
“Children and young people are at the heart of the city’s ‘growth strategy’.”
“Safeguarding is a key priority within this strategy and the Leeds approach is underpinned by strong governance arrangements and committed city-wide partnerships.”
“Leeds has successfully integrated local authority, health and third sector services ….Multi-agency, locality ‘cluster’ arrangements ensure that good and effective use is made of local partnerships…”
Councillor Judith Blake, executive member for children and families said:
“This Ofsted judgement is a fantastic endorsement of the ambition and drive of all our partners across the city to improve the lives of the most vulnerable children and young people in Leeds.
“We have worked hard to make sure that children are at the heart of everything we do – not just within children’s services but throughout all council services, and through our work with organisations across the city. Our partnership work to make Leeds a child friendly city was highlighted as one of our key strengths by the inspectors.
“This is a very important step on our improvement journey, but there is still a long way to go to achieve our aim to make this the best city to grow up in for all young people.
“The report recognises our strong relationships with other organisations responsible for children in the city – only by working together can we ensure all a child’s needs are met, and their futures’ secured.”
Nigel Richardson, director of children’s services said:
“This great achievement is only possible through the hard work of the staff across the service who really do put children at the heart of everything they do. Whether it is by working directly with vulnerable children and their families or support staff who work behind the scenes – everyone has a vital part to play in helping to improve the lives of children and young people across the city. Being described as a place where ‘great social work can flourish’ and as having ‘tenacious staff’ is a wonderful testament to the amazing staff we have and the dedication they show every day.
“Our pledge to make Leeds a child friendly city is key element of our city’s growth strategy. Leeds has a very diverse population with areas of disadvantage and the challenges these bring, which makes this recognition all the more rewarding. We are of course not complacent and are well aware that this is only one step on our journey to improve the lives of all children and young people.”
Inspectors affirm that the council’s ‘child centred’ approach is working: “The authority and professional across the city put children and young people at the heart of their work and children are seen and spoken to as appropriate.” The report also acknowledges that “Social workers are persistent in seeking to engage children. They know the children well…”.
The report highlights the council’s ‘extensive, early and targeted help services available to families at the first emerging of a problem’; and its work to safely reduce the numbers of looked after children in the city; ‘outcomes for children and young people are improving because help is being provided at an earlier stage and more children are safely remaining with their families’, as well as the success of its work with care leavers; “Care leavers are seen regularly and supported by committed and skilled staff, and they appreciate their efforts; ‘they don’t give up on you’ said one (care leaver)”. Help for families is provided at an earlier stage, more children are remaining with their families rather than been taken into care and the council has significantly invested in its social work service, and adoption service, reducing the number of children waiting to be adopted.
The council’s work on identifying young people at risk of child sexual exploitation was also commended; “Considerable progress has been made over the past two years in tackling child sexual exploitation” and “There is a robust and well-coordinated response to children who are missing and/or at risk of experiencing child sexual exploitation.”
The inspectors recognised that the council ‘has set clear priorities for children’s services and has strong city-wide and local partnerships and provides impressive scrutiny and oversight of children’s services’.
The Ofsted report follows an announcement in February that Leeds had secured £4.8 million from the Department for Education’s Innovation Programme to launch new ways of providing children’s social care. The programme is part of the council’s approach to building a restorative, family-centred model that works with families to build the skills, support and resilience so they can find their own solutions to the challenges they face and solve problems earlier, before they reach a point of crisis. The report acknowledges that the council’s ‘unique investment and commitment to ‘Restorative Practices’ is having a transformational impact on culture and professional practice across both the social work service and the Children’s Partnership.” The report also suggests that restorative practice is; ‘successfully challenging traditional social work approaches’.
The council is also expanding its Family Group Conferences, which are special meetings where family members and close family friends come together to make decisions for a vulnerable child on the edge of the care. Leeds has already been using the conferences for a number of years and has seen extremely positive results by keeping children who would previously have gone into care safely with their families. The report comments that “Parents who spoke to inspectors feel that this help is effective and has made a difference to their lives.”
One of the innovative practices Leeds is working towards is a transition from a traditional threshold management model (regarding children on the edge of social work intervention or care) to one where referrals receive considered conversations and responses based on the needs of children, rather than establishing whether a threshold has been met.
The report also reviewed the effectiveness of the Leeds Safeguarding Children Board, which also received a rating of ‘good’. The inspectors commented that the board “fulfils all of its statutory responsibilities and capably coordinates the work of all key statutory partners by scrutinising, analysing and improving the effectiveness of multi-agency safeguarding practice in Leeds” and “has effective leadership and has active support from the Director of Children’s Services, the Chief Executive and Lead Member. The Chair is particularly influential in holding partners to account for their contribution to the safety and protection of children and young people in Leeds, including those children living away from their home area. The Board’s leadership has been instrumental in developing a strong support and challenge culture, and this is valued by all senior partners.”
The LSCB were also praised for their innovative practice; “There is a strong focus on the voice and influence of children and young people through an innovative Student LSCB” and the role it plays in tackling child sexual exploitation in the city; “The Board has been influential through its strong leadership in ensuring a strong focus on child sexual exploitation and children missing from home and care.”
Jane Held the independent chair of the Leeds Safeguarding Children Board said:
“We are delighted that Ofsted have recognised the fundamental role the LSCB plays in ensuring the safety and well being of children and young people in Leeds – especially our role to challenge and scrutinize, and hold organisations to account for the way they meet the needs of children and young people. The Board is only as good as the sum of its parts, We are so proud of the fantastic way the passion, commitment and contribution of every Board partner (and the staff they represent) has meant that we play a key role in building a safe and child friendly city through “strong partnerships” and a “measured and effective approach to monitoring and evaluating front line safeguarding practice”."
The report can be found here: http://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/local_authority_reports/leeds/051_Single%20inspection%20of%20LA%20children%27s%20services%20and%20review%20of%20the%20LSCB%20as%20pdf.pdf
For media enquiries, please contact:
Emma Whittell, Leeds City Council press office, on (0113) 2474713