CHILDREN’S services in Leicester have been rated good in all areas and praised by inspectors Ofsted for offering a robust level of support to local families, despite the coronavirus pandemic.
It means that children’s services in the city are among the best in the East Midlands.
It also marks the next important stage on a continuing journey of improvement for the department – which covers areas including adoption and fostering, children in care, social care referrals and early help services.
Every area of inspection was rated as good by inspectors, whose two-week visit took place at the end of September. While other local authorities in the region have been judged good overall because they have elements of good practice, Leicester was judged to be good in every single area that was inspected. Locally, only Lincolnshire has a higher rating.
Only one category – outstanding – is above that of ‘good’ on Ofsted’s four-point scale.
Inspectors looked at the influence of leadership on the way social work is carried out, and what impact that has on children and families. They also examined the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection, as well as those who are in care or leaving care. Each area was rated good, with overall effectiveness of the service also rated as good.
At its last monitoring visit in 2017, Ofsted rated Leicester’s children’s services as requiring improvement overall, with some elements rated as good.
Deputy city mayor for social care and anti-poverty, Cllr Sarah Russell, said: “I am immensely proud of this inspection report, which is the result of a tremendous amount of hard work by our specialist staff.
“We’ve focused on improvements that we will be able to maintain, long-term, as we constantly strive to advance the service we offer to some of our most vulnerable citizens. This has paid off, as inspectors have found that despite all the challenges of a global pandemic, our services are robust.
“We know there is more work still to do, but I’m delighted that the dedication of our staff has been recognised with this result. It is children and families who will benefit from it.”
The report said inspectors ‘saw a robust management focus on improving services to benefit children and families, including the effective roll-out of a nationally recognised model of social work practice.’
It said that social workers have a clear understanding of the cultural needs of children and families, recognising the many different cultures and diverse communities in Leicester. They added that ‘care leavers benefit from a comprehensive leaving care offer, which is highly effectively delivered by an enthusiastic team of leaving care advisors,’ and ‘despite the personal and professional impact of the pandemic on social workers and managers, inspectors saw no dip in the high quality of support being offered to children and families during this time, and this was impressive.’
The report also found that ‘in a small number of children’s cases, the quality of social work practice, management decision-making or recording is not to as high a standard as that delivered to the vast majority of children and families.’ Staff will continue to work on ensuring consistent good practice.
But inspectors added, that, for the majority of children in care, children’s needs are well recognised by social workers and there is a focus on finding possible permanent solutions, including returning to parents or family. Direct work, children’s participation and services for care leavers were singled out as ‘impressive strengths in Leicester’.
Teams will now update their three-year strategy to ensure their plan reflects Ofsted’s feedback. They also plan to develop a relationship with a local authority with outstanding children’s services to inform their work.
To read the full report, visit https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/provider/44/80482
Picture shows Cllr Sarah Russell (on the right) with staff from Leicester City Council children’s services