Children’s services are praised by Government watchdogs

Derbyshire’s services for children and young people are “good”, according to a new-style inspection carried out by Government watchdogs.

Derbyshire County Council is one of the first five local authorities inspected under a new combined Ofsted regime which looks at the way all services for vulnerable young people are run.

This includes children who need protection, children in care, those leaving care and children helped by the authority’s adoption and fostering teams.

In a report released today, inspectors from Ofsted rated all five areas inspected as “good” and praised the authority for effectively protecting and caring for young people in Derbyshire.

It also outlined the council’s “very high expectations” for its young people with a capacity to improve even further.

Welcoming the findings, Derbyshire County Council’s cabinet member for children and young people Councillor Kevin Gillott said: “This report reflects the hard work and commitment of our staff, alongside our partners in the private and voluntary sector, to ensure all Derbyshire’s youngsters get the chance to achieve their full potential.

“The positive good rating is even more significant given the new, tougher regime introduced by Ofsted which has raised the achievement bar even higher.”

Safeguarding strengths outlined in the 20-page report include:

• Child-focused assessments that are timely and of good quality, with some being very good

• Creative techniques used by social workers to develop good relationships with children and young people

• The authority’s multi-agency teams (MAT teams), which offer co-ordinated support which “improves the lives of children, young people and their families”.

The report also praises services for looked after children, including the authority’s success in:

• Reducing the number of moves for children in care

• Keeping children closer to their homes

• Talking to children regularly about their wishes and feelings, including using a Children in Care council.

Good practice highlighted for children leaving care include:

• High expectations which means they are doing better

• Developing employment, training and education opportunities for care leavers - significantly outperforming other authorities

• Providing apprenticeships for care leavers.

A nine-strong team from Ofsted spent almost four weeks scrutinising every aspect of the service, including talking to young people in care, foster carers, social workers, members of multi-agency teams, schools, police and health professionals.

They looked at the individual case files of more than 250 children and examined 1,200 pieces of supporting documentation.

The inspectors praised the service’s effective leadership and management saying they were improving services for children in Derbyshire “over a sustained period of time”.

To improve further, they advised the authority to:

• Consistently record management decisions on all children’s files

• Consistently record strategy meetings

• Gather feedback from families who have been involved in child protection services.

Cllr Kevin Gillott said: “We want the very best for all children in Derbyshire and this report shows our commitment to that aim.

“It reflects the hard work of members, staff and partners, including schools, in keeping children safe and ensuring their experience when they are in the system is a positive one.

“Our staff and partners are doing a very challenging job in difficult times and I am very proud and pleased by the report’s findings.”

He added: “We are facing the biggest ever cuts to our budgets and there will be challenges ahead for all our services.”