Ofsted praises council for work with child refugees and care leavers

By Joe Lepper

| 09 March 2018

Inspectors have praised a council for the quality of support it offers care leavers and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

Ofsted said there has been continued improvement in services for young people leaving care and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Solihull. Picture: Solihull Council

Following a focused visit last month to check on Solihull Council's care leaver and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children services the inspectorate found that both these groups of young people are being well supported.

Social workers and personal advisers were found to work well with looked-after children who are leaving care to help them prepare for independence, with a strong focus on helping them find work, training placements and education opportunities.

Inspectors found that almost all care leavers are in suitable accommodation and there was an increasing use of Staying Put arrangements, whereby young people can stay with their foster carer until they are 21.

Cultural sensitivity is a hallmark of social workers' support for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, the inspectorate team also found. This includes when they carry out age assessments, which also involve strong analysis and evidence gathering.

Ofsted found that councillors and senior managers know the service well, which helps them to closely monitor performance.

Young people also have a role in shaping support, through the council's Our Voice Our Service, and the children in care council.

"There has been continued improvement in services for young people leaving care and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children since the last inspection," states Ofsted in a letter to Solihull Council's director of children's services Sally Hodges.

"The local authority has an informed overview of its performance and practice. Social workers and personal advisers work well with young people to help them prepare for independence through detailed personal education plans and pathway plans, together with a range of support and guidance."

"Social workers demonstrate cultural sensitivity and an understanding of legislation and law in relation to the needs of young people arriving in this country.

"The achievements of young people in care and leaving care are celebrated and young people are able to influence policy and practice."

Inspectors also highlighted areas where they would like to see further improvement. These include earlier leaving care planning for all looked-after children, preferably as soon as the young person reaches their 16th birthday.

They also advised that social workers also need greater opportunity for reflection and analysis when dealing with cases, to help them think about possible different approaches to helping care leavers and child refugees.

Ken Meeson, Solihull Council's lead member for children, education and skills, said: "We are really pleased with the outcome of Ofsted's recent visit and are glad that they recognise our vulnerable children and young people are safe and supported."

He added: "We will continue to improve and build on our success to deliver outstanding services for children and young people in Solihull."

It is the second favourable report Solihull Council has received from inspectors in recent months.

In December a joint inspection team from Ofsted and health watchdog the Care Quality Commission praised support for children with special educational needs.

That report also singled out swift assessments and early identification of mental health problems among unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

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