Children and young people in Lancashire are being better supported according to a new report published by Ofsted today (Friday 17 August).
The report announces significant improvements to Lancashire County Council children’s services.
The report has rated a range of services for children and young people as ‘requires improvement’ following a four week inspection which took place in June, and means that the authority is no longer in ‘special measures’ and can deliver its services without support from the Department for Education. Around half of the local authorities in England have ‘requires improvement’ for their children’s services.
There was also particular praise for adoption performance, which was rated as ‘good’.
The inspection comes after a previous visit from Ofsted in autumn 2015 found the service was inadequate.
A series of measures have been put in place to transform the service including recruiting more social workers and support staff, investment in developments to the service, and a greater focus on outcomes for young people.
The latest inspection noted improvements in engaging with children, better support of care leavers, and an effective workforce strategy which was addressing retention rates and reducing reliance on agency staff.
Amongst the other findings were:
• “There is now a clearer focus on improving outcomes for children and developing purposeful practice.”
• “The council is interested in what children have to say. They involve children in important decisions about how services are run.”
• “Recruitment of foster carers and connected carers is effectively completed by well-managed panels, and support for carers is strong and highly valued by them. The adoption service is a strength, and there are robust arrangements in place for timely approval and post-adoption support.”
• “An effective workforce strategy is addressing retention rates and reducing the reliance on agency staff. There is evidence of an increasingly stable workforce. This has led to more social workers developing stable relationships with children and understanding their needs well.”
• “Care leavers feel that the local authority is getting better at being a corporate parent to them. They receive more information to help them be successful in their adult lives. More care leavers are continuing to live with their foster carers in staying put arrangements.”
• “Partnerships…are working well together to progress different issues that impact children and their families.”
• “Senior managers and leaders have taken on board the feedback from Ofsted monitoring visits, their peers and commissioned improvement partners to ensure that change is best informed by best practice and previous inspection recommendations.”
John Readman, interim executive director of education and children’s services, said: “Whilst there is still work to be done this report shows that children’s services in Lancashire have started to improve and good progress is being made.
“I would like to thank staff from across all children’s services in Lancashire for all their hard work in improving the way we serve children and young people in the county, keeping them safe and helping them to reach their potential.
“We will now carefully consider all the 11 recommendations made by Ofsted and how to implement them so we can continue to develop this very important service.”
Jane Booth, independent chair of Lancashire Children’s Safeguarding Board, said: “I was very pleased to see Ofsted had found an improvement to the way children are safeguarded in the county during their inspection.
“I was also delighted that the inspectors noted the improvements made with the collaborative work across all the agencies that are involved with young people including schools, health and the police. It is a collective approach that really makes the difference.
“A number of recommendations have been made by inspectors to further strengthen the service and I hope these will be picked up and incorporated within a short period of time.”
Councillor Geoff Driver CBE, leader of the county council, said: “The safety and potential of our children and young people in Lancashire is very important to us and we have been putting a lot of effort in recently to make sure we get that right. We are delighted that Ofsted has recognised the improvements that have been made and in particular our progress in adoption, listening to our young people and supporting our care leavers in their next step in life.
“The ‘requires improvement’ judgement means we still have a way to go to improve services for our children and young people and it shows we are heading in the right direction. We are committed to providing the best possible service for the children and young people of Lancashire.
“This latest report has now given us 11 recommendations for improvement over the coming months, including more robust analysis in assessments, ensuring plans for children in need are measurable and outcome-focused, and that we share a common understanding with our partners of the risks associated with neglect.
“It is vital that Lancashire County Council continues to work hard in getting this right as the children and young people who need these services deserve the best care and support, and are the future of Lancashire. My thanks go to all the staff who worked tirelessly over the past few years to make the improvements and will be continuing to improve standards to ensure the service in the future is rated as good.”
The report is available at reports.ofsted.gov.uk/local-authorities/lancashire.