Our Children’s Services has been officially rated Good by Ofsted, due to a “One Council” approach and our ambition to deliver modern, inclusive, efficient, productive, and high-performing services.
The rating follows a full inspection in September by Ofsted of the services provided by Barnsley Council to the borough’s children and young people.
Our Cabinet members have approved a significant financial investment, and we’ve worked together to make sure that both corporate and political responsibilities are in sync. Thanks to these efforts, services for children in care and care leavers continue to be good, according to the inspectors' report.
The report acknowledges that, since the appointment of the new executive director 14 months ago, an in-depth review of all service areas has taken place.
This review has led to a self-assessment that accurately measures the services we provide and the experiences of the children under our care.
Inspectors have noted that this thorough understanding and our proactive responses are resulting in positive changes across our services for the borough’s children.
They also recognised our strong and effective senior leadership team’s positive impact on the quality of social work practice.
Cllr Trevor Cave, Cabinet Spokesperson for Children’s Services, said: “This rating is a fantastic achievement for Barnsley and reflects the hard work and commitment of our Children’s Services staff, along with the dedication and support of the council via the investment we’ve put in to help us achieve this.
“Inspectors could see how much children matter in Barnsley; we strive to make sure their voices are heard and involve them in our decision making.
“We mean it when we say we want Barnsley to be the place of possibilities for every child and young person who lives here, and we will continue to work hard to make this happen.”
Highlights of inspectors’ findings include:
- Decisions for children to enter care are appropriate and timely with clear recorded management rationale. Swift action is taken to find the most appropriate homes for children when they are at risk, or when plans determine this is the right decision.
- Children benefit from extensive efforts by social workers to assess family members and to support children remaining within their family network where it is safe to do so.
- Social workers capture children’s views about their care and their voices help to shape their care planning.
- Children who need more specialised emotional support and interventions benefit from swift access to child and adolescent mental health services as there is priority access and ongoing interventions for children in care.
- Disabled children in care benefit from stable relationships with their social workers, who visit them regularly.
- Children and young people have a plethora of opportunities to be involved in shaping the future of children’s services and providing their views, including through the Care4us and care leaver groups. They are involved in interviews of senior leaders and are invited to some senior leadership meetings.
- The experiences and progress of care leavers have markedly improved since the focused visit earlier this year, where some areas for improvement were identified. The response to young people is now consistently good.
- We have high aspirations for care-experienced young people. A considerable number of care leavers are being assisted at university and there are a wide range of education and employment opportunities, including work experience and apprenticeships within the council.
- The lead member for children is an ardent advocate for children, and with the chief executive and executive director for children they operate as an entirety, mirroring their steadfast aim to be ‘One Council’ with children and young people at its heart.
- Staff in Barnsley benefit from a bespoke and thoughtfully commissioned array of training and resources to help improve practice across children’s services resulting from a new practice development hub.
- Significant investment in the workforce and an unremitting drive to retain staff through generous incentive schemes have halved the use of agency staff since the arrival of the executive director.
Inspectors also found that staff enjoy working in Barnsley. They feel heard. They collectively speak of the improved changes to practice because of the visibility and involvement of the executive director and senior leadership team, which is described as commonplace. Staff feel supported and speak positively about the impact of supervision from their managers.
Inspectors identified one area out of five which requires improvement – they said there had been a slight decline in the quality of some services provided to children living in Barnsley in need of help and protection.
Senior leaders recognise there is still more to do to ensure that children in need of help and protection receive a good service and already have active improvement plans in place.
Improvements are starting to have momentum, and we will continue to work hard to make sure that all children receive the very best services and care.
Areas identified for improvement are:
- The engagement of multi-agency partners, including in key decision-making meetings for children in need of help and protection, and the quality of referrals they make to children’s social care.
- The quality of recorded management direction to social workers at the point of referral and within screening.
- The identification and response to children who live in private fostering arrangements.
- The record of achievements and targets within personal education plans.
The report can be read in full at https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/provider/44/80426