Ofsted inspectors have praised improving social work practice in the first children’s services to be run by an independent trust.
Social workers in Doncaster have improved their assessments, and are ensuring they see children alone and properly hear their views, inspectors said.
“Social work staff are very positive about working in Doncaster and report clear improvement in support and their working environment. Use of agency staff has reduced at all levels, leading to a more stable workforce. This has enabled progress to be made in relation to the quality of social work practice,” the report said.
“The impact of significant investment in training for social care staff is beginning to be demonstrated in practice.”
Ofsted praised the performance management and quality assurance arrangements, saying the services’ senior leadership team were “fully involved” in ensuring areas for improvement are known and understood. Inspectors did however identify delays in visits for children, assessments not being completed within agreed timescales and the overall quality being inconsistent.
The trust has run the service for just under two years since then education secretary Michael Gove removed children’s services from the control of the council. It was rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted last year, despite signs of improvement.
In the outcome of a monitoring visit in the council, Ofsted praised the effective progress being made to improve services, prompt action taken to address safeguarding concerns and senior managers having a “solid understanding of performance and areas of improvements”.
“Doncaster children’s services trust knows itself well and uses external scrutiny and challenge to improve services and processes. Alongside this, significant internal quality assurance and performance management activity contributes to targeted learning, which is helping to drive more effective social work practice,” the report said.
“The local authority and the trust are making significant progress from a low baseline to improve services for children and young people in need of help and protection in the areas covered by this visit. There were no cases seen where children were judged to have been at immediate risk of harm.”
Paul Moffat, chief executive of Doncaster Children’s Services Trust, said the trust is on track to meet its improvement plans.
“A significant amount of work has taken place in the trust, the council and with partners since the trust was established and this is now clearly yielding the right results for families in Doncaster.
“We know there is still a lot to do and inspectors confirmed that we have a good understanding of what those challengers are and more importantly how to address them. We are reassured that Ofsted share our own view that we are heading in the right direction on our journey to transform services for children, young people and families.”