Double Praise from Ofsted

Ofsted have praised Doncaster Children’s Services Trust for their delivery of an ‘outstanding’ fostering service which, they say, ‘greatly enhances the life chances’ of children and young people.

The government watchdog has also given positive feedback to the Trust and Doncaster Council, for services they jointly deliver for children and young people with disabilities.

Inspectors have paid a visit to the Trust twice in recent weeks – one for a full inspection of the fostering service, which is delivered by the Trust on behalf of the council.

The other was a focused visit to look at partnership working to deliver services for children with disabilities who are in need; subject to a care plan; and children in care.

The inspectors have deemed the fostering service to be ‘outstanding’ overall, stating that it provides highly effective services that “contribute to significantly improved outcomes and positive experiences for children and young people.”

In their report, the inspectors state that the fostering service’s leaders and managers place children and young people’s well-being at the heart of their practice, ‘resulting in children and young people having exceptional experiences in foster care’ and with carers finding leaders extremely responsive to their views and feedback.

The inspector added ‘excellent information sharing’ between the child’s social worker, fostering teams and foster carers aids effective matching.

The Trust’s fostering service team were praised for their innovative approach to services, including the introduction of the Mockingbird Family Model, which sees groups of foster families in a ‘constellation’ of ten families, with a hub carer at the centre of each who provides practical and emotional support, thereby providing an extended family approach which helps with placement stability.

One family told the inspectors: “We had no family up here to support us, but now we do.”

The report also praised how children and young people are fully included in the lives of their foster carers. Children told the inspector that they ‘feel happy and comfortable in their foster homes’.

The inspectors noted that carers and supervising social workers actively promoted children and young people’s relationships with their birth families if appropriate. “Some have returned to live with family members because of the input from carers in helping parents to develop better parenting skills,” their report says.

The service has been praised for its work to support extremely vulnerable young people, helping to find them homes where they will be safe and well cared for. One young person told inspectors his placement has ‘literally saved my life”.

Inspectors state that leaders of the fostering service show ambitious vision for the children and young people in their care, with the needs of the children and young people being a priority. One senior manager said: “I am their parent, so they are my children.”

Meanwhile, for the focused visit, inspectors looked at the local authority's arrangements for children in need, children subject to a care plan and children in care, with a specific focus on services for children with disabilities (CWD).

In their subsequent letter, the inspectors state that they continue ‘to see Doncaster Council and DCST [the Trust] focusing highly effectively on improving its services’ and saw that all of the disabled children who were receiving services from them were being provided with a high-quality service which was delivering evident improvements in their lives.

Children’s views are, they say, ‘robustly at the centre of all social work practice and exceptionally well-recorded’ ; and transitions work demonstrates good relationships between the Trust and the council adult services, with ongoing plans which result in a smooth transfer to support in adulthood.

“Management oversight is clear and well documented on all of the children’s electronic files. This is well supported by robust performance management and quality assurance systems which provide very good quality information on the work being undertaken,” the letter states.

These findings will be taken into account when Ofsted visits the services for CWD for a full inspection.

Chief Executive of Doncaster Children’s Services Trust Paul Moffat said: “We are absolutely thrilled that our fostering service has been recognised by Ofsted as Outstanding. This report highlights the fantastic work being delivered by our fostering service and carers, which is making a difference to the lives of the children and young people we care for.

“We are equally pleased by the findings from the focused visit, which concentrated on services delivered to children and young people with disabilities. The letter from the inspectors highlights the effectiveness of partnership working in helping some of Doncaster’s most vulnerable children.

“The Trust has had a number of successes in 2018, including it being rated by Ofsted overall for providing ‘Good’ services for the Doncaster children, young people and families it supports and an ‘Outstanding’ Adoption service. We couldn’t have achieved this sustained improvement without the support of the council and our partners from across Doncaster, and together in 2019, we continue to strive towards delivering the very best services for our children, young people and families.”

Cllr Nuala Fennelly, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Schools, added:

“It’s great to see that Ofsted has praised the joint working taking place between Doncaster Council and Doncaster Children’s Services Trust to ensure children and young people are fully supported and offered the best environment to grow and thrive in Doncaster, as part of our ambition to be the most child-friendly borough.”

The Trust is keen to hear from anyone who would be interested in providing a safe and loving home as a foster carer. Information is available on the website or contact 01302 737777.

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