Then and now: how a council turned around its children’s services in three years

The improvements to a local authority children’s services in Ofsted's words

Photo: EtiAmmos/Fotolia

In its latest inspection of Rotherham council’s children’s services, Ofsted consistently commended the local authority for significant improvements and ‘transformed’ services.

Jumping from inadequate almost across the board in 2014, to ‘good’ with an element of ‘outstanding’ three years later, the council’s practices, processes, leadership and partnership arrangements have undergone immense change.

A side-by-side comparison of the two inspections shows Rotherham’s development – identifying the significant changes but also where improvements are still required.

The journey from inadequate to good: Rotherham children’s services between 2014-2017


Area of service Ofsted inspection findings 2014 Ofsted inspection findings 2017
Children who need help and protection Inadequate: The quality of assessments and the identification of risk are insufficiently robust and do not support safe planning or improved outcomes for children and young people Good: Children’s services has undergone significant improvement. This includes embedding the Rotherham family approach to improve the quality of social work practice. The quality of assessment and plans has significantly improved
Children looked after and receiving permanence Inadequate: Many looked after children have had long periods without being seen by their social worker and this has led to drift and plans not being progressed Requires improvement: Historic instability in the workforce has meant that many children looked after have experienced changes in social worker, and that too many children have experienced placement and disruption change
Adoption performance Requires improvement: The delay experienced by children in going to live with an adoptive family is reducing but further progress is required Good: The vast majority of children are being placed with their permanent carers without delay
Experiences and progress of care leavers Inadequate: The local authority is aware of the need to improve service design and delivery for care leavers but is not sufficiently involving them in the plans and proposed changes Outstanding: A skilled and dedicated team of staff keeps in constant contact with the young people to ensure they stay safe and are protected against harmful behaviours
Leadership, management and governance Inadequate: There is little routine direct communication with children and young people, particularly those in receipt of child protection services and those who are looked after and placed out of the area. There is limited communication with front line practitioners Good: The culture is one of openness and transparency and genuine dedication to improving the lives of children and young people. A revised quality assurance framework and a ‘beyond auditing’ tool give managers significant knowledge of the quality of practice
Overall judgement Inadequate: Serious and widespread failures in child protection work mean that children and young people are not adequately protected. Social work practice is not robust and management oversight is weak Good: The quality and impact for services are transformed. Risks to children are recognised early and responded to, ensuring their safety

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