Ofsted upgrades Doncaster from 'inadequate' to 'good'

Joe Lepper
Friday, January 19, 2018

Standards at an independent trust set up to improve the quality of children's services provision in Doncaster have been rated "good" following a re-inspection by Ofsted, just two years after receiving the lowest rating.

Doncaster Council was stripped of control of children's services amid concerns with the quality of provision dating back to 2009, with Doncaster Children's Services Trust officially launching in October 2014. 

Provision went on to be rated "inadequate" in November 2015 following an inspection by Ofsted.

But a re-inspection, carried out last November under the single inspection framework, found that the quality of improvements are so significant that the service is now considered to be "good" across all aspects of its work. This includes child protection, adoption and care leaver services, as well as its leadership, management and governance.

The quality of frontline social work, record keeping and management oversight was strong, inspectors said. They also highlighted good levels of morale across the department.

Social workers and managers feel supported through reflective supervision and inspectors also praised a focus on ensuring children are heavily involved in decisions around their care. As a result of the improvements children had better life chances, inspectors found.

"Since the last inspection, when services were judged to be inadequate, there have been significant improvements in the quality of support for children in Doncaster," the inspection team's report states.

"The council and Doncaster Children's Services Trust work well together and know their strengths and areas needing further development.

"The trust is highly effective in developing a culture for good social work to flourish. As a result, the quality of social work is good and is supported by a well-embedded model of social work practice."

The report adds: "The voice of the [looked-after] child is powerful in Doncaster. Children only become looked-after when it is in their best interests and when all other options have been considered."

Care leavers were also found to be well-supported and involved in developing services. However, inspectors said they are concerned that only those who attended support groups had access to leisure passes. Inspectors want to see these available to all those leaving care.

Inspectors also want to see the council improve the range of placement options, after finding that a small number of children were being placed inappropriately.

"We are tremendously proud of each and every one of our staff who have worked so tirelessly to achieve these improvements for Doncaster's children," said Doncaster Children's Services Trust chief executive Paul Moffat.

He added: "At the centre of everything we do, from our direct work with children, to developing our services, are the voices of our children and young people. We are therefore delighted that inspectors have recognised just what an integral part the voice of the child is in our work at the trust."

A separate report into children's services at Norfolk County Council rated overall provision as "requires improvement", around two years after it was rated "inadequate" in October 2015.

Following a re-inspection under the single inspection framework last November, inspectors deemed the local authority's adoption services to be "outstanding".

"The last 12 months have seen a significant increase in the pace of change, with visible and effective interim senior leaders working purposefully to tackle critical weaknesses," the inspection report states.

However, concerns remain around the quality of child protection work, with inspectors finding confusion across sectors over thresholds for intervention. They were particularly concerned that police continue to pass on a high number of notifications about low-risk incidents.

"I went down to Westminster to see the minister for children in November 2016 and he told me off for the bad performance of the service then," Norfolk County Council leader Cliff Jordan said.

"I was able to convince him to give me the chance to turn it around - I gave him my word that we'd achieve a step change in performance and that is what we've done."

In September last year Norfolk County Council announced it was ploughing an additional £12m into children's social care to invest in early intervention support to prevent children coming into care.

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