A ‘stable and well supported’ workforce who put children at the centre of everything they do is pivotal to the Doncaster Children’s Services Trust, according to Ofsted inspectors.
And, following their latest monitoring visit, they say the Trust is an organisation in which the ‘voices and views of children come through strongly and are clearly taken into account.’
In their report, published today (Wednesday 22 March), the inspectors have praised the Trust for its ‘significant and continuing progress’ to improve services for children and young people in need of help and protection in Doncaster.
The report outlines the agency’s findings following a third detailed monitoring visit to the Trust, which has delivered social care services including child protection, fostering, adoption, family support, children’s homes and services to children with disabilities on behalf of Doncaster Council since October 2014.
In the latest visit, the three inspectors were looking at the experiences of children in care. And they state: “Significant and continuing progress is evident in terms of the quality of services for children looked after.
“Children and young people are at the heart of strategic planning and operational work. “[The Trust] know themselves well and effective performance management and quality assurance systems mean that good practice is recognised, practice deficits are identified promptly and actions taken to address these.”
They state that a key element of progress has been the “development of a stable, well supported, permanent workforce with manageable caseloads. This means that social workers know the children and young people well” and “The voices and views of children come through strongly and are clearly taken into account in the planning and work undertaken.”
The report praises the development of “A very impressive and well-supported Children in Care Council (CICC)” and the Young Advisors, whose influence had been witnessed not only locally but nationally - at which level it had contributed views on mental health services for children in care to the Social Care Institute for Excellence. Children had also spoken at the all-party parliamentary group about contact visits with family.
Locally, looked after children and young people were members of key strategic boards, participated in staff interviews and delivered Total Respect training; and were currently supporting developments to ensure that social work visits to looked after children were meaningful.
“Overall, they are clear that their views are taken seriously and that they are able to influence developments, describing the CICC within the trust as a ‘big trust family.’”
Assessments of children in care were seen as ‘timely’ and supporting effective permanence, in addition to which co-ordinated partnership working was evident in the casework seen, with the numbers of children experiencing three or more moves having reduced from 57 in January 2016 to 39 in January 2017.
“A child-focused independent reviewing service is a strength in Doncaster,” the report states, adding: “Young people are appropriately involved in decisions and the trust works hard to ensure that placement choice is offered when possible.”
The corporate parenting board is also praised by the inspectors who state it had ‘an effective overview of services’ for looked after children and its members took account of the views of children and young people in a variety of ways.
Effective performance management was witnessed, with frontline managers and staff supported in undertaking good quality work – and where there were deficits, they were promptly identified and addressed.
Whereas performance information and reporting had been identified at the original single inspection as an area for development, these were now seen as an area of particular strength.
Commenting on the report, Trust Chief Executive Paul Moffat said: “This is the third monitoring visit in seven months which has noted significant improvement.
“We are really pleased that the improvements we have seen have been validated by the inspectors. I am very proud of our staff for achieving these.
“I am particularly pleased about the role the young people themselves played in the inspection – especially the fact that the inspectors described the CICC as ‘impressive’, because they are really impressive young people. This also reflects their role in the life of the Trust, because they are at the heart of what we do.
“While we are pleased to see the improvements staff have made, we are not complacent. There is still further ground to cover but the fact we know our services, staff and children very well means that we can act quickly when we need to make changes to further improve the lives of vulnerable children. When we say we will do something, we do it.
“The Board and myself are really proud of the staff and the children and young people we serve.”
Damian Allen, Director of Learning Opportunities and Skills (DCS) at Doncaster Council, said: “We welcome the findings of this latest monitoring visit which show great strides continue to be made in improving services for our vulnerable young people.
“It is pleasing Ofsted recognised the work of the Council and Doncaster Children’s Services Trust during their visit. Many areas of strength were identified and evidence of good progress in all required areas was found which paints a positive picture of the rate and extent of the improvement made. We are totally committed to looking after our vulnerable young people and together with the Trust and our partners will ensure this rapid rate of improvement continues.”
You can read a full copy of the report here.
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