The two highest performing Councils for Children's Services in the North East have received a share of £15m funding from the Department of Education to help drive up standards at other councils across the country.
South Tyneside and North Tyneside Councils have been named as the region's first Partners in Practice along with seven others nationally. Working in partnership with central government the scheme will see both councils working with other local authorities whose Children's Services are under-performing or at risk of failing. The two councils will be known as the Tyneside Alliance and have made a commitment to work with around ten other councils both in the North East and further afield during the two-years of the progamme.
Both South and North Tyneside Councils Children's Services have been rated 'Good' by Ofsted with 'Outstanding' areas of service. Around 70 per cent of council Children's Services nationally have been rated 'Requires Improvement' or 'Inadequate' and the Alliance will be supporting some of these councils.
In addition to being a Partner in Practice, South Tyneside Council has developed its own innovation project called the WorkPlace. This aims to significantly improve the success of South Tyneside's young people leaving care to access education, employment and training. This will involve working with schools and carers to raise the aspirations of looked-after children, the development of a bespoke careers advice service and by working more closely with the business community to create opportunities for work.
North Tyneside Council's 'Edge of Care' innovation project is aimed at providing a range of services to prevent young people entering the care system, which are developed around the needs of the young person and their family and which enable them to stay in North Tyneside, in schools and connected to their peers. The service model is based on evidence of 'what works' for young people and will include, for example, workers working in the family home to support all family members, including during evenings and at weekends, and swift access to additional services such as counselling.
As the two highest performing councils for Children's Services in the region, South and North Tyneside Councils will work with the Department of Education to support the development of national policy on children's social care, test out innovative practice and enable national government to understand the opportunities and challenges across the country.
Councillor Joan Atkinson, Lead Member for Children, Young People and Families at South Tyneside Council, said: "This is fantastic news and is further endorsement of the remarkable work which is taking place in the Borough to give every young person the best start in life.
"Despite being an area with high levels of deprivation Ofsted recognised that the services we provide to families and young people are among the best in the UK. This gives us a unique perspective to share our learning and innovative practice with other authorities to help them drive up standards in their own areas."
She added: "I am particularly pleased that our own innovation project will focus on people leaving the care system. We want all our young people to feel confident and ambitious and have the right skills and training to help them achieve their goals. This announcement today will enable us to contribute to helping children and families in other council areas alongside the real difference we are already making to the life chances of some of our most vulnerable young people right here in South Tyneside."
Cllr Ian Grayson, North Tyneside Council's cabinet member for Children, Young People and Learning, said: "I am delighted that our joint bid for funding with South Tyneside Council has been successful and we look forward to being able to use our skills and expertise to support other local authorities.
"It is also fantastic that we will be able to develop our 'Edge of Care' innovation project, which will provide a number of benefits to young people in the borough by bringing services closer to them. Having a range of flexible and responsive services for young people and their families to access, often when they are in crisis, is key to keeping more children and young people in North Tyneside connected to their homes, schools and friends."