The first independent children’s trust has jumped from ‘inadequate’ to ‘good’ in its latest Ofsted inspection.
Doncaster Children’s Trust was praised by inspectors for developing a culture where good social work could flourish.
“As a result, the quality of social work is supported by a well-embedded model of social work practice,” the report said.
Doncaster’s children’s services were the first to be moved into a children’s trust after a history of persistent failure. The decision was taken by the then education secretary Michael Gove, and the government has since stated ambitions to have a third of children’s services delivered through alternative delivery models.
The trust’s overall ‘good’ rating – and ‘good’ rating in every subcategory – comes just two years after it was rated ‘inadequate’.
Effective management and auditing
Ofsted praised a highly effective performance management and audit programme and the council using the voice of the child as “an absolutely integral part of individual casework and planning of service delivery”.
“In the main, social workers receive good-quality, reflective supervision. Social workers and managers all reported good morale and said they enjoy working in a culture which is challenging but highly supportive with visible and accessible leaders,” the report said.
It noted that since the trust launched “social workers and managers in the trust have worked tirelessly to improve the support being provided” to children and families.
“Inspectors saw a commitment to deliver high-quality services from everybody they met – from councillors, senior leaders, managers, workers, support staff, administrators and other agency representatives.
“It is this joint ownership that has made the most difference to improving the lives of vulnerable children in Doncaster,” the report said.
Staff morale was deemed “high” and the recruitment of experienced and newly qualified staff had reduced the agency rate to just under 14%.
To continue to improve, inspectors said the trust must ensure all social workers receive high-quality supervision, and that all children’s assessments, plans and actions are completed to the trust’s standards.
Paul Moffatt, chief executive of Doncaster Children’s Services Trust, told Community Care the pace of improvement had been “intense” but he could see the service reach a turning point, and that there were “elements of outstanding already”.
He said a vital part of the improvement journey was involving young people.
“All organisations should be able to demonstrate how they listen to their service users, and I think what this report reflects is the intensive amount of work that took place over the past two years to ensure all staff are prepared to listen to young people and act on any issues they raise,” Moffatt explained.
He said the way the trust managed to improve practice was through listening to social workers so it didn’t repeat the mistakes of the past, with the benefits now being seen.
“Our sickness levels are very low, our retention levels are good, we attract good staff, retain good staff, 70-80% of our staff said we were a good employer and would recommend us to family and friends.”
Mica, a young advisor to the trust, said: “We met with all the trust staff in October and said this to them: ‘We know you work hard and that social work doesn’t always get the credit it deserves. As young people, young advisors and as modern apprentices employed by the trust we’ve seen this from every angle and want to take this last opportunity to say now is your time to shine and show Ofsted what Doncaster has achieved for its children and young people. Let’s smash this”’
“Well they certainly did smash it, and they did us proud!”