Leeds City Council’s services for children in care have been described by Ofsted inspectors as ‘flourishing’ following the first new-style focused inspection to be carried out in the country.
In a letter to the council summarising the findings of a focused visit to inspect children’s services, inspectors praised many aspects of the services for children in care, including commenting that senior leaders have “created an environment where social work is flourishing”.
The letter noted that inspectors had found that: “The local authority clearly understands its strengths and areas for development. It takes its corporate parenting responsibilities very seriously.” Inspectors also affirm that the council’s ‘child centred’ approach is working: “Social workers take full account of children’s hopes and fears, wishes and feelings. The quality of direct work with children is of a high standard. Every effort is made to try to help children to understand and make sense of their life histories. In most cases, the voice of the child in informing and shaping care planning is clear.” And that: “Rigorous attention is paid to the needs of individual children and of sibling groups.”
The council’s investment in its social care workforce was also highlighted, with the letter stating that: “The local authority has invested wisely and well in recruitment and retention, workforce development and career progression. Staff turnover is at an all-time low. A more stable workforce means that children and young people are able to build meaningful relationships with their social workers.”
The inspectors also noted the council’s innovative use of family group conferencing to try to identify family-based solutions, which keep children out of the care system, commenting that “the local authority is committed to achieving permanence for children and young people.”
Councillor Lisa Mulherin, executive member for children and families said:
“The findings from our first focused inspection is affirmation of all the hard work our social care staff and foster carers put in, day in day out.
“Whether it is by working directly with vulnerable children and their families or our 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.
“It is fantastic that inspectors have recognised we are creating an environment where social work is flourishing and how our skilled and stable workforce is having a hugely positive impact on the children, families and carers they work with.
“Our pledge to make Leeds a child friendly city is a 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. The inspectors recognised that we are 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.”
During the two-day visit inspectors looked at the council’s arrangements for the quality of matching, placement and decision-making for children in care, including the quality of planning and the identification and management of risk and vulnerability. Inspectors also evaluated the effectiveness of performance management, management oversight, supervision, quality assurance and the continuous professional development of the social care workforce.
Leeds was the first authority to be subject to a "focused" inspection carried out under the new Ofsted inspection framework.
The full letter can be found here: https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/local_authority_reports/leeds/070_Leeds_Focused%20visit%20of%20local%20authority%20childrens%20services.pdf