Ofsted awards first across the board 'outstanding' rating under new children's services framework

By Joe Lepper

| 07 August 2018

A council has been rated "outstanding" in all areas of children's services for the first time under Ofsted's new inspection framework.

Children and families in North Yorkshire receive a "consistently high service" Ofsted found

Following a visit in July, inspectors have handed children's services at North Yorkshire County Council its top grade for leadership, child protection, support for children in care and care leavers as well as for overall effectiveness.

Inspectors are impressed with improvements across the department since it was rated "good" in all areas when last inspected in 2014 under the single inspection framework.

Children receive consistently strong support and are at the centre of decisions made across social work, inspectors found.

Leaders' oversight of work is also praised as is the department's stable workforce and partnerships with other agencies.

"Children and families in North Yorkshire receive a consistent, high-quality service," states Ofsted's inspection report.

"There is outstanding practice within all teams, which has a demonstrably positive impact on effecting change for children and families.

"There are well-established multi-agency partnerships that understand thresholds, ensuring that families receive the right help in a timely way.

"Work is child-centred and there is a long-standing, clearly embedded model of practice, based on building effective relationships with children and families.

"There is outstanding practice within all teams, which has a demonstrably positive impact on effecting change for children and families."

The council's commitment to placing looked after children close to their home and community is also highlighted by inspectors. Almost all children in care are placed within the council's boundary.

This has been achieved through effective recruitment and retention of local foster carers, particularly in-house carers.

"The majority are placed in foster care, most with in-house carers, enabling children to be cared for in a family environment," states the inspection report.

"Long-term placement stability is promoted, and foster carers are well supported in order to facilitate stability and prevent children from having to move placements unnecessarily."

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The area's multi-agency No Wrong Door project, which helps looked-after children, care leavers and those on the edge of care become independent, is also singled out for praise.

Work through the project includes using specialist foster carers to help those moving out of residential care adjust to family life.

"Workers are persistent in their interventions, which proceed at a pace that is right for the child, building on their self-esteem and areas in which they can achieve," adds the inspection report.

North Yorkshire is one of 15 councils and children's services providers involved in the Department for Education's peer support Partners in Practice programme.

England's chief social worker for children and families Isabelle Trowler says that following Ofsted's inspection North Yorkshire is set to become a key local authority for influencing social care policy and practice.

"For the last four years I have watched this authority move from strength to strength," she said.

"Determination, ethical and effective practice, high ambition for change, energy and wisdom, from practitioners to senior leaders, has led to this result.

"North Yorkshire is now set to heavily influence the rest of the country in national reform of children's social care and I look forward, very much, to our continued partnership." 

Children's minister Nadhim Zahawi also says he wants to see North Yorkshire's work mirrored England wide.

"We want every child to have the best start in life, whether they have special educational needs, whether they are in care, or come from a troubled home, we want them to have the right support and stability to flourish," he said.

"I hope to see these ambitious and forward thinking approaches seen at the county council replicated across the country."

North Yorkshire's executive member for children and families Janet Sanderson said: "During their visit inspectors described our work as ‘gold dust' and we place a high value on our deeply committed and effective workforce.

"The quality of practice matters to us and there is a relentless focus on building relationships with families and supporting them to change."

Meanwhile, Peterborough's children's services has been rated as "good" by inspectors following their visit under the new inspection framework in June and July.

In their inspection report Ofsted praised the council's "strong learning culture".

When last inspected in 2015, under the single inspection framework, Peterborough was found to "requires improvement" in all areas except adoption services, which was rated "good".

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