An Ofsted inspection of North Yorkshire County Council has rated the children’s services department as ‘outstanding’ where children and families receive a consistent, high-quality service.
There is outstanding practice within all teams, which has a demonstrably positive impact on effecting change for children and families, the report found.
“The leadership team is ambitious and forward thinking. Over a sustained period of time, it has built on an established philosophy of practice, which is clearly understood across the service and by partners,” said the report.
“The leadership team has a clear oversight of practice and knows the services well, which is reflected in an accurate self-assessment,” it added.
Ofsted highlighted that a stable workforce has been maintained, and an environment and culture has been established in which staff at all levels are confident in their practice and ability to meet the needs of children and families. There are also plans in place for further developments to ensure that improvements are maintained, and that the service remains responsive to change.
The experiences and progress of children who need help and protection was rated as outstanding.
- Children and families receive a timely and proportionate response to contacts made to the Multi-Agency Screening Team.
- Management decision-making is effective, timely and child-centred, with clear rationale that identifies next steps.
- A range of daily exploitation meetings within MAST review all children at risk of exploitation, including criminal exploitation, sexual exploitation and gang-related activity.
- The Prevention teams include skilled and experienced workers, who are providing highly effective support to families.
- The vast majority of assessments are of a high quality, and a well-embedded model of practice is used to facilitate a clear exploration of strengths and areas of concern within a family situation.
- There is clear management oversight throughout the local authority on the progress of plans.
“At the heart of the North Yorkshire approach is a belief that stable relationships with workers who know their children and families extremely well is the key to creating and sustaining positive change,” said the report.
The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers was also rated to be outstanding. Ofsted found:
- High-quality edge of care services are contributing to children remaining in the family home wherever possible and whenever it is in the child’s best interests.
- Children in care have comprehensive care plans that cover all aspects of their needs, including contact with significant people.
- The local authority is committed to ensuring that children remain close to families and within North Yorkshire.
- Young people leaving care and moving towards independence are well supported and given opportunities to succeed.
- Staying Put is promoted and a lot of effort is placed on ensuring that care leavers have access to an appropriate range of accommodation that meets their needs and helps them move towards independence safely.
“The local authority is seeking to provide opportunities for care leavers, while utilising their experiences to support other young people. A restorative academy has recently been developed that offers training, employment and career development for care leavers, while providing support to young people on the edge of care,” said the report. “This is a creative approach to maintaining change, while giving young people a platform from which to develop a career.”
Ofsted also rated the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families as outstanding. Inspectors said:
- The senior leadership team has for some time had a clear vision of the direction in which it wishes to travel and the standards of service it wishes to deliver.
- It is a strong, forward thinking and progressive leadership team that is clearly focused on the needs and issues that affect North Yorkshire children.
- North Yorkshire children’s services is a learning organisation that is continually seeking to develop and improve.
- North Yorkshire is a committed and effective corporate parent that is actively seeking to keep children within its boundaries to facilitate targeted support with local services.
- Leaders’ innovation and creativity drive strong engagement with children and families.
- Leaders and managers at all levels have good knowledge and a clear understanding of performance issues.
- There are clear expectations regarding the highest standards that North Yorkshire local authority aims to achieve and does achieve.
“North Yorkshire local authority monitors workloads and has invested in the recruitment of social workers so that effective relationship work with children and families can be maintained. There is investment in the development of workers and managers, who are able to access opportunities to further enhance their practice. Staff report being well supported and there is a clear model of practice that is well embedded, allowing practice to flourish. This is having demonstrable impact on the work with families,” said the report.
Ofsted recommends that assessments need to reflect consistently that wider issues of identity and culture have been explored. All plans should focus on specific actions with clear timescales and be accessible to all parents and carers.
The consistent recording of formal supervision on individual cases should demonstrate how reflective discussions have influenced care planning. Finally, the effective recording of all audit outcomes should inform the quality of practice and service development.
Yvette Stanley, Ofsted national director for social care, wrote to the County Council’s Director of Children and Young People’s Service, Stuart Carlton, to say: “This is a magnificent achievement and one which I wanted to particularly acknowledge today as this is the first time that Ofsted has awarded outstanding judgements across the board under the new inspection of local authority children's services framework. This outcome is therefore an important milestone not just for North Yorkshire, but for the social care and wider children’s services sector, too.
“Your ‘outstanding’ inspection outcome reflects the hard work and tenacity of yourself, your leadership team, managers and frontline staff, as well as the wider council and your safeguarding partners. You should all be proud of the positive difference you have made for the children and families of North Yorkshire.
“I know that this outcome will not diminish your ambition for or culture of embracing improvement in services and outcomes for children and, extend my very best wishes for the next phases of your continuous improvement journey.”
Minister for Children and Families Nadhim Zahawi said: “This is fantastic news for North Yorkshire. The dedicated children’s social care team should feel immensely proud of the outstanding care, support and services they provide for some of the most vulnerable children in the area. We want every child to have the best start in life, whether they have special educational needs, whether they are in care, or come from a troubled home, we want them to have the right support and stability to flourish. I hope to see these ambitious and forward thinking approaches seen at the county council replicated across the country.”