Mark Whitehead 09 August 2018

An 'outstanding' example for children's services

An outstanding example for childrens services image

In these days of relentless cuts and gloom, Ofsted has provided a rare ray of sunshine, declaring North Yorkshire children's social care services 'outstanding' in all areas.

The home of Last of the Summer Wine, it is clear reading the inspectors' report, has combined two major factors: it is evidently extremely efficiently managed, but also operates with warmth and humanity.

In all four areas spotlighted after the four-day inspection, this ideal combination shines through, helping North Yorkshire become the first authority to receive the top grade in every category under the new social care inspection framework.

Care services in North Yorkshire, the inspectors say, are child-centred and 'there is a longstanding, clearly embedded model of practice, based on building effective relationships with children and families.'

The authority is 'a committed and effective corporate parent that enables children and young people to remain close to their home and local community.'

The leadership team is 'ambitious and forward thinking'. A stable workforce has been maintained, and an environment and culture established in which 'staff at all levels are confident in their practice and ability to meet the needs of children and families'.

Ofsted praises North Yorkshire's multi-agency screening team in which all contacts are rated red, amber or green by a manager, who then ensures they are progressed in a timely way and pointed to the correct service.

Management decision-making is 'effective, timely and child-centred, with clear rationale that identifies next steps and with seamless transfer into locality services,' while referral information provided is appropriately streamlined and identifies key issues that formulate a danger statement and provide a clear analysis.

This enables the receiving team to have a good, early understanding of potential risks and the services needed to help the child.

High-quality 'edge of care' services are contributing to children remaining in the family home wherever possible and whenever it is in the child’s best interests, Ofsted says.

'The local authority is committed to ensuring that children remain close to families and within North Yorkshire. There are highly effective recruitment strategies, which ensures sufficient placements and enables them to maintain links with their local communities.'

Finally, under the heading 'impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families, the inspectors conclude that North Yorkshire's senior leadership team has 'for some time had a clear vision of the direction in which it wishes to travel and the standards of service it wishes to deliver.

'It is a strong, forward thinking and progressive leadership team that is clearly focused on the needs and issues that affect North Yorkshire children.'

Inevitably, the Ofsted report is not all wine and roses: there are areas for improvement including the need for assessments to 'reflect consistently that wider issues of identity and culture' and for 'all plans should focus on specific actions with clear timescales and be accessible to all parents and carers'.

But overall the report provides an example for other authorities to emulate.

North Yorkshire should be commended not only for its Ofsted report but also for what it has done with it: the council's website is an expert demonstration of how to publicise good news. A series of short, articulate videos from managers and service users - including a care leaver now studying for a master's degree in world economics - spells out the positive experience of the service, from a human point of view.

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