Update on Journey of Improvement for Children's Services

Posted by: Press Team on 11 January 2024 11:11

Clear progress has been made to raise standards for children in South Tyneside as the Council continues its improvement journey following a negative Ofsted inspection last year.

Councillors will next week be given an update on the state of play in Children's Services following the Inadequate rating last year.

As part of the improvement notice being issued, an adviser from the Department for Education was appointed to work with the Council to monitor progress

In the latest DfE review of the Council's improvement journey (October 2023) it was noted that: "There has been clear progress made since the publication of the Ofsted report in May 2023. Indeed, work on improvement began immediately following the first part of the inspection in December 2022. The leadership team has undertaken significant work to identify and understand the causes of failure in South Tyneside's Children's Services, and they are clearly committed to resolving the problems identified.

"Feedback from front line social workers and managers was overwhelmingly positive. Of particular note was their commitment and loyalty to South Tyneside and determination to see services improve. Caseloads were reported to be at a manageable level and staff feel supported and invested in. There is a clear culture of learning and support which is evidently valued by staff."

 An Improvement Board with partners has been established to oversee the implementation of the Improvement Plan and report on progress.

Much work has been carried out to increase the number of places for looked-after children. Construction is underway on new children's homes which will almost triple the number of places for children in care while fees for foster carers have been increased to encourage more people to consider taking on this rewarding role. Ofsted was critical of the Council's management of unregistered placements in 2022, however it has recognised nationally there is a shortage of suitable care placements.  It is important to note that while children were placed in accommodation that was not registered with Ofsted, the children continued to be supported by their allocated workers. No child came to harm as result of being in one of these placements. Staff and leaders have worked tirelessly to prevent children being placed in unregistered provision and no children in South Tyneside are currently in unregistered care.

Members will be told that a key focus of the improvement journey has been on improving recording of decision-making in children's files. Regular audit work is now carried out and is moderated by a neighbouring authority to ensure the effectiveness of the changes made. This scrutiny may be expanded in the future to refine the Council's processes.

The report highlights progress made with regard to the timeliness of assessments for children needing care, with timeliness improving from almost 71 per cent in 2022- 23 to more than 94 per cent in 2023-24.

Councillor Adam Ellison, Lead Member for Children and Families' Social Care, said: "While it will take time to realise all the improvements required in Children's Services, it is clear that we are moving in the right direction.

"The latest monitoring visit by Ofsted highlighted positive progress. Assessments are good and being done in a timely manner, evidence was found of a strengthened and more robust approach to audit and improvement in both management oversight and performance information.

"Crucially, inspectors found our workforce to be loyal, staff like working in South Tyneside and are positive about the improvement work that is taking place. They also appreciated that leaders are very visible and there is open communication."

If agreed by councillors, further updates will be brought to appropriate existing forums for scrutiny and assurance purposes and ensure Members are appraised of the improvement journey.


Last modified: 08 February 2024 13:40