Essex Council has turned around its failing child safeguarding services and is now rated adequate by Ofsted, according to the watchdog’s annual children’s services assessments.
Essex’s child safeguarding services were rated inadequate last year after Ofsted noted failures in initial and core assessments, child protection enquiries and child protection plans. A successful inspection in September, however, found significant improvements.
Dave Hill, executive director for schools, children and families, said: “We know we still have work to do to get Essex children’s services to the standard we can be proud of but this is a significant milestone and one that staff should be proud of.”
Published today, the 2011 annual children’s services assessments revealed that Essex is one of 25 authorities in England which improved its performance over the last year. Eleven shed their inadequate rating, while the performance of seven authorities declined.
Overall, Ofsted found 28 local authorities are providing excellent services to children, 71 are performing well, 33 adequately and 15 poorly. A further five results are yet to be published.
An analysis found the best performing councils had high numbers of good or outstanding services in local safeguarding arrangements and services for looked-after children. They also consistently placed children in good or outstanding children’s homes.
Local authorities that improved their services found ways to tackle identified weaknesses and under performance. Some achieved considerable improvement in their social care services including adoption and fostering, and in keeping children safe from harm.
Local authorities that performed poorly were found to have substantial inadequacies in their safeguarding services, too many schools and sixth form colleges which are rated no better than satisfactory, high levels of school absence and standards of behaviour.
Her Majesty’s chief inspector, Miriam Rosen, said she was encouraged to see more councils providing excellent services for children in their local area: “This year’s children’s services assessments have shown that more authorities have improved their children’s services than declined, and a large majority have sustained their strong performance,” she said.
But she added that the pattern of improvement was still too variable.
President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services Matt Dunkley said despite the challenges of reduced funding, increased caseloads and significant policy change most local authorities were still managing to deliver good or excellent services.
“It is vital that each of us learns from each other in these complex tasks. That is why we are firmly committed to the principles of sector-led improvement such as those embodied in the Children’s Improvement Board.
“It is also difficult to summarise the breadth of services provided for children and families in a single grade. For that and other reasons, while we welcome this good news, we remain supportive of the government’s stated intention to review this approach to assessment which is now unique in local government.”
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