Ofsted awards first ‘outstanding' ratings for children's services

Neil Puffett
Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Two local authorities have become the first to be awarded "outstanding" judgments under Ofsted's controversial inspection framework for children's services.

Out of the three authorities that make up the “tri-borough” merged children’s services covering Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, and Westminster councils, both Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster were rated outstanding, while Hammersmith and Fulham was rated “good”.

The inspection report for Kensington and Chelsea praises the "exceptional workforce" for the way it resources, plans and delivers services for children and young people.

It adds that the model of social work in use, which places a high value on relationship building between children their social workers, delivers services that are "consistently excellent".

“Senior leaders and elected members are well connected, well informed, and operate within a mature culture of respectful challenge," the report adds.

"An absence of complacency leads to a strong culture of continuous learning, professional accountability and responsibility."

The inspection report for Westminster commends the authority's "outstanding, highly ambitious and confident operational and political leadership".

"Consequently, almost all vulnerable children and young people who come into contact with children’s services receive good or outstanding support," the report states.

"Significant and sustained improvements have been made since the last inspection in October 2011, when services were judged to be good. Leaders and managers demonstrate a strong track record of effective, high-quality service delivery."

The inspection report for Hammersmith and Fulham reveals that although the authority received an overall "good" rating, it was judged to be outstanding in two areas – adoption performance, and leadership, management and governance.

"Services are significantly enhanced by the innovative and highly effective tri-borough partnership with the City of Westminster, and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea," the report states.

"Economies of scale, achieved through shared administrative and managerial functions, have created opportunities to develop and deliver a broad range of highly effective and innovative services."

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted's chief inspector, said: “The tri-borough partnership has shown what can be achieved with strong political will and an ambition that only the best services will do for vulnerable children and young people.

"These inspections clearly show the difference that excellent leadership and social work practice makes to the lives of children and their families. These areas show what can be done. If they can do it – others must follow their lead.”

The tri-borough, established in 2011, received £4m from the Department for Education’s innovation fund in July 2014 to “completely redesign” how it delivers children’s social care, with the aim of allowing professionals to spend more time with children and families and basing practice in greater expertise and evidence.

Earlier this year it was named as one of a number of high-performing services that will support struggling areas as part of the Partners in Practice programme – the others being North Yorkshire, Hampshire, Richmond and Kingston, Leeds, and Durham.

Kensington and Chelsea, and Westminster become the first councils to be rated outstanding nearly two-and-a-half years after the single inspection framework first launched in November 2013.

As of November last year, 77 per cent of the 69 authorities inspected had been rated "requires improvement" (52 per cent), or "inadequate" (25 per cent).

Ofsted has said that the system being devised to replace the SIF will be less demanding on councils, to reflect the pressures they face as a result of funding cuts.

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