Peers see a changing culture for children’s services in Doncaster

An independent review of the country’s first children’s services trust has praised the “energy and commitment” of staff to improve outcomes for children.

Doncaster Children’s Services Trust invited the Local Government Association (LGA) in July to carry out a review into how the Trust is keeping children safe and its progress made following its Ofsted inspection last October.  

The publication of the report comes a week after Ofsted inspectors praised the “significant progress” being made in Doncaster.  

The report stated there is “evidence of a culture change that is supporting movement towards more effective practice and service delivery”. In addition to praising the Trust for its initial focus on “getting the basics right”, the review team applauded the Trust’s ambition to grasp opportunities to innovate and tackle some of those thorny issues which can blight young people’s lives for many years. For example, through its Growing Futures programme, the Trust has focussed on a whole new family approach working with partners, which is resulting in a 7% reduction in referrals to children’s social care where domestic abuse is an issue.

The report praised the Trust for developing a performance and quality assurance culture that promotes continuous improvement. It also remarked that the staff they met “appreciate the resulting stability” of a strong senior officer appointments and reduction in dependency on agency social workers. The report added that staff were “encouraged to contribute ideas and solutions to what appears to be developing as a learning organisation”.

The report also states that the “Trust is serious about listening to children”. Young people talked to the reviewers about a sense of “trust in the Trust”, which is helped by increased stability of social workers and other staff. The peer review team added that the impact of this stability is “now starting to emerge about the difference that improvements are having on children’s lives” and children’s views are influencing how the organisation is developing its services to support their needs.

Chief Executive of Doncaster Children’s Services Trust Paul Moffat said: “We are thrilled to have this further validation, from the Local Government Association, that we are making “significant progress” and that all the hard work and determination of our staff is improving the quality of services provided to children, young people and families in the borough.

“We pride ourselves on being a learning organisation that is transparent and regularly welcomes peers and inspectors to see our progress and to provide us with the challenge to ensure we continue with our pace of change. Following the success of our recent Ofsted visit, these findings from our peers within the sector add further clarification that we are heading in the right direction.   

“It is extremely satisfying to hear that the improvements made are having a real impact on children’s lives. We know there is still much do and the review team confirmed the challenges that we had already identified.”

The peer review team highlighted further improvements were needed to manage the level of demand into social care. The peer review team’s letter also echoed the needs highlighted by Ofsted for enhanced data around child sexual exploitation to be available to practitioners.

Independent Chair of Doncaster Safeguarding Children Board (DSCB), John Harris said: “The board welcomes the publication of the report today, which highlights improvements made in Doncaster to protect those children and young people who need support.

“There is still a need to improve the understanding across the borough about how and when to access social services support. The foundations to tackling these concerns are in place and the DCSB will continue to play its role in driving the further improvements required.”

Damian Allen, Doncaster Council’s Director of learning Opportunities and Skills, said: “The trust and the council has clear goals for protecting and supporting our vulnerable young people and it is pleasing that this was recognised in this peer review which echoes the findings of the recent Ofsted report. There is lots of positive work being undertaken and while there are areas that we need to improve it highlights we are most definitely on the right track.”

The peer review team is made up of directors and senior officers from local government sector – including children’s services, health and police - who have a wealth of knowledge and experience of working in services which support children and young people. Peer reviews, while not formal inspections, offer organisations with a powerful independent scrutiny.  

A full copy of the report is available to view on the Trust website.  

 

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