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Children’s Services rated Good after latest inspection

by Gemma Melling

Children’s Services delivered by St Helens Borough Council have been rated Good by Ofsted, with services for young people leaving care rated Outstanding.

Inspectors praised the transformation of the service which has moved from an Inadequate rating in 2019 to leapfrog the ‘Requires Improvement’ judgement and achieve a judgment of ‘Good’ in its latest full inspection which took place between 11 and 21 July.

In particular they focused on a ‘positive and aspirational culture in services for children’ while it was clear to inspectors that there had been ‘a dramatic improvement in many service areas, particularly in the last 12 months, and [the council] has robustly addressed previous weaknesses’.

Inspectors found that services for care leavers was Outstanding, with high praise for The Hub which provides young people with a place to drop in to gain support, which young people interviewed rated the service as 10 out of 10. A focus on supporting children and young people on education, employment and training (EET) was also identified as a success.

The report said: “Pathway plans are ambitious and have a very strong focus on EET. Young people who are at university are well supported, as are those in training and apprenticeships. The proportion of care leavers in education, employment or training is significantly above that of comparable authorities and above the national average, with Good attention also paid to the quality and appropriateness of education and work placements.

Key areas also focused on feedback from families and the focus on learning and development with comments from the inspection team, led by Russel Breyer, said: “Some of the strengths seen in this inspection were summarised by parents, who told inspectors that they have been helped and that they appreciate what is done with and for them, as well as how this is done.”

“An innovative improvement team provides support to social workers and helps to develop practice. There is a dynamic learning culture, which is well recognised and appreciated by social workers.”

Cllr Nova Charlton, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “We are delighted to see the hard work that has been put into transforming children’s services has been recognised by the inspectors. Improving the standards of care for families and young people has been a key priority for us since the inadequate judgement and the support from our committed staff, partners and families has shown that together we have been able to improve.

“It is great to see the voice of children is clear in all the work we do and that they are the focus so that our children are given the greatest chance to have a good start in life which builds better opportunities for our future generations.”

Inspectors also recognised that children’s successes are celebrated and that social workers have good relationships with children and in turn children said they liked their social workers.

Inspectors rated the following areas:

  •        The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families – Good
  •        The experiences and progress of children who need help and protection – Requires improvement to be Good
  •        The experiences and progress of children in care – Good
  •        The experiences and progress of care leavers – Outstanding
  •        Overall – Good

While work is needed to continue on the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection inspectors did recognise that leaders had plans in place to address areas where further improvement can happen.

Cllr David Baines, Leader of St Helens Borough Council, added: “When I became Leader in 2019 Children’s Services were inadequate, and we simply could not accept that. Every single child and young person deserves the very best possible start in life and that’s why as a council we made it our top priority to transform and improve the service.

“Since 2019, with Cllr Nova Charlton leading the way in Cabinet, there has been a huge amount of hard work by a huge amount of people. It’s been a whole council mission to deliver the best we can for children and young people. I thank everyone involved, and particularly our amazing staff. We can all be very proud that Ofsted have recognised our efforts.

“While a lot has been accomplished, there is more to do – we want the service to be Outstanding. This judgement gives us the confidence and reassurance that we are on that path, and allows us to focus on the areas we need to continue to improve so that we can make even more of a positive difference for all children and young people in St Helens Borough.”

The Good rating means that the council moves out of special measures, which saw intensive monitoring from Ofsted and the Department for Education.

To read the full report visit: https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/provider/44/80560


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