Children's services in Leeds have been rated outstanding by Ofsted.
Children and families in Leeds are receiving a consistently good service which ensures that their needs are met at the right time by the right service, the inspectorate said.
"Leaders have established a well-understood practice model that promotes child-centred work and productive working relationships between workers and families, as well as giving a clear overview of the outcomes desired," said the report.
There has been investment in the effective recruitment and development of staff, facilitating a more experienced and stable workforce that is very loyal to Leeds and highly motivated to provide the best service it can to children and families, it added. Social work practice and leadership in Leeds is consistently good as a result.
While some processes are not fully effective, children and young people are safeguarded and supported to achieve good outcomes.
With regards to the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection, which inspectors graded as 'outstanding,' the report highlighted:
- Children and families benefit from a well-established and well-resourced ‘cluster’ model of early help which appropriately meets many children’s needs at the lowest formal level of intervention.
- Work regarding domestic abuse and the effect it has on children is a clear strength of the local authority and the issues are well understood across the partnership.
- Immediate and increasing risk to children is well recognised and matters escalate appropriately into statutory social work services.
- Assessments seen were generally of a good quality.
- There is good management oversight of work to ensure that plans are progressed and that identified needs are met in a timely way.
Ofsted rated the experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers as good. Inspectors found:
- Applications to court are appropriate and supported by good-quality statements and plans.
- Children in care are listened to, they are seen alone, and their wishes and feelings are acted on by social workers, who are consistent people in their lives and keen advocates for them.
- There is an effective multi-agency approach to addressing risks such as sexual exploitation and going missing.
- Leeds local authority is committed to meeting the needs of the children in care, and the vast majority of children in care are in local placements or live nearby and have access to the same supports.
- Children leaving care have access to a range of accommodation options and are supported to live independently.
In terms of the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families, which was
graded as outstanding, the report highlighted:
- There is a long-standing commitment and ambition throughout the council to ensure that children are at the centre of work within the city.
- The local authority is a learning organisation with a clear vision of what it is seeking to achieve.
- There is a clear ‘Leeds Practice Model’ and a clear identity as a service that has been developed and maintained over an extended period.
- The local authority has invested in practice and career development opportunities, which has supported the effective recruitment and retention of staff. This has been successful, vacancy rates are very low, and a clear majority of workers now have more than two years’ experience.
- There is a strong workforce development programme that promotes continuous development for all staff, with a focus on improving practice and outcomes for children.
To improve, Leeds should focus on the consistent involvement of health agencies in strategy discussions and the consideration given to children’s culture and identity in all assessments.
The quality, recording and review of personal education plans (PEPs) needs work to ensure that they provide clear, consistent and purposeful targets, covering both short-and longer-term objectives and pathway planning should be better reflected in case records and pathway plans should be reviewed to ensure that they are meaningful documents for young people.