Ofsted reports “steady progress” in Wakefield’s children’s services

Wakefield Council is making “steady progress” in improving its services for children and young people, Ofsted has concluded after their third monitoring visit.

Inspectors, who visited on 9 and 10 October, have also highlighted areas for further improvement to continue to develop the service and acknowledged the plans already in place to achieve this. During a routine inspection in June 2018, Ofsted judged the local children’s services to be inadequate across the board.

In a letter published 1 November 2019, Ofsted said that since the last inspection “senior managers have continued to work tirelessly on building and strengthening the foundations to improve services for children in need of help and protection. Senior managers have focused on developing the right service structures, and increasing staffing, in order to enable social works to focus on core practice.”

Inspectors highlighted that whilst assessments are improving, planning for children needs to be the next area of focus. This includes stronger challenge by frontline managers and child protection chairs, when change is not achieved, and better social work oversight of some disabled children’s cases. They noted the positive impact that the recently established children-vulnerable-to-exploitation team was having but said effective multi-agency action to disrupt and prosecute individuals who present a risk to children is needed.

Systematic and staged approach

Corporate Director for Children and Young People, Beate Wagner, said: “Overall, we are pleased with Ofsted’s feedback. They could see the developments since their last visit and that we continue to build and strengthen the foundations to provide a robust service. They saw improved recording, routine auditing, robust performance monitoring and stronger management oversight.

“Importantly, they saw that our focus on the quality of practice is now gaining traction and highlighted improvements in core social work practice and multi-agency planning.

“However, we are not there yet. We still have a lot of work before us which we are approaching in a systematic and staged manner. Our next and immediate priority is to focus on the quality of our plans and ensuring that we are fully engaging and maximising the use of our partners for their expertise and support.”

Cllr Margaret Isherwood, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said “Our outgoing leader, Cllr Peter Box, has led this effort from the front. From the day that we received the unacceptable rating in 2018, Cllr Box has taken a personal interest and has ensured that this service gets the highest level of attention and support required. This has included considerable financial investment which has enabled a large and rapid expansion of the service. I thank him for his unwavering attention and wish to assure him that we will build on the solid foundation that he is leaving.”

Safe hands

Cllr Peter Box CBE, outgoing leader of Wakefield Council, said “I am very pleased with the progress that we have made in strengthening our service for our young people. I knew that we could do it and am pleased that the Department for Education agreed last year to give us the opportunity to put right our failings.

“I am disappointed not to be able to see this journey through to the end. I congratulate Beate and her team for their commitment and focused work that has brought us to this point. I leave knowing that the service is in safe hands.”

Wakefield Council continues to work closely with the Independent Commissioner, Peter Dywer CBE, who was appointed by the Department for Education. This follows a standard Ofsted inspection of Local Authority Children’s Services in June 2018, which judged the services to be inadequate across the board.

Mr Dwyer is carrying out regular reviews of Wakefield’s improvement journey, looking at the progress made, current projects and plans for the future.

His latest report to the Minister in June 2019 provides further positive confirmation of Wakefield Council’s capacity to deliver the improvements required at the right pace.

Mr Dwyer stated how “Improvement is not a simple or mechanistic process and whilst no LA is identical, it would appear in my and the views of experienced others, that the progress being made is at least in line and potentially in advance of that of others.”

Ofsted will continue to make regular monitoring visits to Wakefield as the Council drives forward with the transformation of children’s services.

The letter can be read on Ofsted’s website.

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