Children’s services at Leicester City Council have finally been rated good by Ofsted six years after a crisis which left hundreds of vulnerable children at risk of serious harm.
Back in 2015, Ofsted deemed the council’s Children’s Services as having “widespread or serious failures” after failing to allocate social workers to hundreds of children in Leicester.
This led to the sacking of two major council figures, Elaine McHale, the council’s interim director of children’s services at the time, and Cllr Vi Dempster, who held the portfolio for the department.
Leicester City mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby then stepped in to take over political responsibility for the children’s services department and put started to put measures in place to deal with the crisis.
However, the service took a hit yet again in 2017, where Ofsted rated the children’s services at the council as ‘requires improvement’, despite some elements being rated as good.
But now, Ofsted have finally given the council a reward for its hard work improving the quality of care in the city, being officially rated as good in all areas and were praised by the government office for offering a “robust level of support” to local families.
This now puts the city’s services among the best in the East Midlands, and, according to the council, marks the next stage of their work to improve the department.
Children’s services covers areas including adoption and fostering, children in care, social care referrals, and early help services.
Every area of inspection was rated as good by inspectors, whose visit took place at the end of September.
This is better than other local authorities in the area – with many being given an overall good rating for having elements of good practice, rather than having a good rating for every part of the service.
In the East Midlands, Leicester City Council was only beaten by Lincolnshire.
When reviewing children’s services, inspectors look at the influence of council leadership on the way social work is carried out, as well as the impact it has on children and families.
They also look at the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection, as well as those in care or leaving care.
Deputy city mayor for social care and anti-poverty, Cllr Sarah Russell, said: “I am immensely proud of this inspection report, which is the result of a tremendous amount of hard work by our specialist staff.
“We’ve focused on improvements that we will be able to maintain, long-term, as we constantly strive to advance the service we offer to some of our most vulnerable citizens. This has paid off, as inspectors have found that despite all the challenges of a global pandemic, our services are robust.
“We know there is more work still to do, but I’m delighted that the dedication of our staff has been recognised with this result. It is children and families who will benefit from it.”
The report said inspectors “saw a robust management focus on improving services to benefit children and families, including the effective roll-out of a nationally recognised model of social work practice.”
It said that social workers have a clear understanding of the cultural needs of children and families, recognising the many different cultures and diverse communities in Leicester.
They added that “care leavers benefit from a comprehensive leaving care offer, which is highly effectively delivered by an enthusiastic team of leaving care advisors.
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“Despite the personal and professional impact of the pandemic on social workers and managers, inspectors saw no dip in the high quality of support being offered to children and families during this time, and this was impressive.”
The report also found that “in a small number of children’s cases, the quality of social work practice, management decision-making or recording is not to as high a standard as that delivered to the vast majority of children and families.”
Leicester City Council say that staff will continue to work on ensuring consistent good practice.
Inspectors also added, that, for the majority of children in care, children’s needs are well recognised by social workers and there is a focus on finding possible permanent solutions, including returning to parents or family.
Direct work, children’s participation and services for care leavers were singled out as ‘impressive strengths in Leicester’.
The council’s children’s service team are now set to work on how they can improve further following Ofsted’s feedback.
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