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County Council bosses welcome latest Ofsted report into children's services

Staffordshire’s children’s social services rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted in their latest report published today.

The County Council say vulnerable children in Staffordshire continue to be well looked after by the areas social services.

An Ofsted inspection of children’s social care services published today confirms that the authority has retained its overall rating of ‘Good’ - one of only three in the West Midlands to achieve this rating.

Mark Sutton, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Children and Young People, said: “This rating by Ofsted reflects a great deal of hard work by dedicated professionals to keep our children safe.

“It is a tremendous achievement when one considers the increasing numbers of children needing support at a time when funding from the Government simply isn’t keeping pace with the cost of providing the necessary specialised services.”

In the last 10 years the number of children in Staffordshire who are receiving support from social services has risen 1,143 to 1,912, with the cost of caring for the most vulnerable increasing from £58 million to £110.8 million.

Among Ofsted’s main findings were:

  • The children’s service budget is protected, with additional funding for more social workers;
  • Social workers’ caseloads have reduced, leading to ‘improved outcomes for many children’;
  • Skilled practitioners work with children and families to reduce risks, meet needs and achieve positive change.

The report also highlights many other areas of good practice, including mature partnership working, effective and timely screening for children referred to the service, and the quality of an experienced workforce.

The report did, however, find some areas where the authority did need to improve its approach. These included:

  • The length of time a very small cohort of children remain subject to a child protection plan is too long, without sufficient change in their circumstances, and they remain in neglectful circumstances.
  • The local authority’s response to children exposed to contextualised risk is not well developed and joined up. For a small number of young people who are at high risk, the response is not robust enough.
  • The effectiveness of return home interviews for children who repeatedly go missing from home or care.
  • The effectiveness of the response to young people who present as homeless.
  • The rise in electively home educated pupils has been significant and there is very limited challenge or safeguarding checks for those families who choose this route for their children.
  • The effectiveness of the response to care leavers who the local authority is not in touch with.

Mark Sutton said: “Given the increasing pressures on children’s services it is a great achievement to be rated as ‘Good’ overall again.

“We are also committed to focusing on prevention, early intervention and keeping more children out of care when it is safe to do so.

“There are some areas for improvement, including reducing the timescales for helping a very small number of children who are subject to a child protection plan for more than two years, developing better systems for helping those who go missing repeatedly, and improving support for older care leavers.”

He added: “The Ofsted inspectors largely positive findings are, in no small part, down to the dedication of our staff who often work in some of the most challenging situations.

“While we are committed to improving the lives of the most vulnerable children, together with our partners we continue to make clear to Government that there needs to be a national, sustainable solution to how we continue to fund children’s care.”

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