Ofsted has rated children’s services in Bolton ‘good’ after its previous rating of ‘requires improvement’ in 2014.
Senior leaders and elected members have a clear focus on prioritising support, including financial resources, for Bolton’s most vulnerable children, the single inspection found.
“Social work practice and services have improved since the last inspection and are now good, resulting in positive outcomes for most children,” said the report.
- Regarding services for children who need help and protection, Ofsted found:
- Appropriate decisions are made for children who have been referred but whose circumstances do not meet the threshold for social care intervention and are appropriately stepped down to early help.
- All cases seen have clear management oversight and rationale for the decision recorded.
- Strategy discussions are well attended by a range of multi-agency partners. Discussions are child-focused, with good consideration of historical factors.
- The quality of social work assessments has improved since the last inspection and is good.
- The quality of social work practice is good.
- Good work by staff with parents and a strong partnership approach are leading to risks being reduced for children at risk of sexual exploitation.
Regarding the experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers, inspectors found:
- Most children who become looked after in Bolton make progress and their outcomes improve as a result.
- Children in care benefit from good educational placements that are supported by the creative use of the pupil premium.
- Health assessments are prioritised, routinely in place, and reviewed according to changing need.
- Care leavers benefit from the strong corporate parenting ethos across the council.
- Care leavers receive good support from their social workers, multi-agency specialists and the virtual school to enable them to maximise their potential in accessing education, employment or training.
Regarding the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families, Ofsted found:
- There is strong political and corporate support for children’s services.
- Senior leaders have a good and accurate understanding of the strengths and areas for development in its services for children.
- Partnerships are well established across all agencies, at strategic and operational levels.
- There is a clear and comprehensive workforce development strategy, and all staff benefit from the opportunity to develop their knowledge, skills and careers in Bolton.
Ofsted said the understanding of the effectiveness of assessment, intervention and impact at the early help stage needs to improve, as does the authority’s capacity to support children and families affected by the impact of domestic abuse.
Bolton should focus on permanence planning for children in long-term foster care and placed with parents and on the use of audits to evaluate the impact of practice in improving children’s outcomes.
Bolton’s last inspection in 2014 resulted in a rating of Requires Improvement.
Cabinet Member for Education, Schools, Safeguarding and Looked after Children, Cllr Ann Cunliffe, said: “This is absolutely fantastic news and I’m so pleased for everyone in the department as I know they have worked incredibly hard to make improvements.
“The views and best interests of the borough’s most vulnerable children are the heart of everything we do, and I’m delighted that this has been reflected in Ofsted’s judgement.
“I’m so proud of the ‘Good’ rating but also acknowledge that there is still room for improvement. We are aware of the areas which need further work and there are already plans in place to address these. We are thrilled to be recognised as a leading authority and will continue to strive to be even better.”