The first children’s service to be forcibly moved out of council control by government has been rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted.
An inspection of Doncaster Children’s Trust, which made headlines after it became the first outsourced provider of children’s services directed by government to drive improvements, found its child protection provision ‘inadequate’. The independent, not-for-profit trust is commissioned by the council, but operates independently from it, and has run Doncaster’s children’s services for a year.
The inspectorate found “serious weaknesses in a small number of cases during this inspection”, and that “the quality of assessment and management decision making is inconsistent” in the trust’s services for children who need help and protection.
All other areas had improved since the troubled service’s last inspection in 2012, but the trust’s overall judgement was affected because an ‘inadequate’ child protection rating means the whole service is judged ‘inadequate’.
“Although the trust has reduced the turnover of social workers and managers, changes in some teams continue. These have contributed to drift and delay that leave some children at potential risk of harm. Too many cases seen by inspectors lacked the appropriate level of involvement of children, young people and their parents and carers,” the report found.
However, Ofsted complimented the trust’s improvements since its previous inspection. Adoption and fostering services were rated ‘good’, while services for children in care and care leavers had also improved.
Ofsted found the workforce had become more stable in the children in care teams, social workers had manageable caseloads, and all children and young people were allocated a qualified social worker.
“In this inspection, there is evidence of the progress made with services for children looked after and care leavers that are judged as requires improvement. Adoption is good. Overall, this is a reflection of the progress leaders and managers are beginning to make in improving outcomes through better services for children in Doncaster,” the report said.
Paul Moffat, chief executive of the trust, welcomed the findings, and said they reflected the level of change needed in the council.
“We know that there is still a lot to do and the inspectors confirmed the challenges we had already identified. We are making strong progress against our improvement plan and we are on track to reach the targets which were set for us by the council and the government,” said Moffat.
He brought attention to the quality of children’s homes in Doncaster. Two have been rated good this year, and a third had been rated outstanding.
“We won’t be satisfied until we achieve outstanding protection and support for Doncaster’s children and the area is seen as a beacon of excellence in children’s social work,” Moffat said.
The trust’s target was to be rated ‘requires improvement’ or better by April 2016.
Lancashire, Medway and Hertfordshire
Ofsted published inspection reports on another three local authorities today.
Lancashire children’s services was rated ‘inadequate’ because of “serious” child protection failings
Medway was judged to be ‘requires improvement’, a grade better than its previous inspection, and was praised for good quality care leaver support. However, inspectors said the proportion of agency staff caused “disrupted social work relationships for some children”.
Hertfordshire was rated ‘good’ overall, and Ofsted complimented the council’s governance and its timely early help support services for children and families.