STOCKTON-on-Tees Borough Council’s children’s services are among the best in the country, Ofsted inspectors have found.
In a report published today (August 5) inspectors awarded the Council an overall “good” rating, putting it among the top 25 per cent of authorities nationwide.
And it is one of only three local authorities in the country to secure an “outstanding” rating for the experiences and progress of care leavers.
The Council also won praise for putting the Borough’s children “at the heart of service delivery” and for its “strong” and “highly effective” leadership.
“Services to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people in Stockton-on-Tees are good,” says Lead Inspector Tracey Metcalfe’s report. “Political and professional leaders demonstrate determination and a commitment to keep children and young people safe in Stockton-on-Tees.
“Political leaders have been responsive to budget pressures, with additional financial investment where needed, and ensure a robust level of scrutiny across children’s services. The extent to which all leaders and elected members within the local authority engage with children and young people is outstanding.”
The report describes the Council’s approach to safeguarding as “highly effective”, and says “robust action” is taken when concerns are raised about a child’s safety.
A reorganisation of services to “develop a stronger and more integrated approach to early help” is also recognised, with the new family hub cited as a good example.
Educational outcomes for looked after children are “above those of similar groups nationally”.
And there are “good arrangements” in place to maintain and improve the health and emotional needs of looked after children and care leavers.
The Council’s work to support care leavers is singled out as “outstanding”, with positive outcomes for care leavers providing solid evidence of the benefits.
“More care leavers move on to education, employment or training, including the proportion moving on to university, than similar groups nationally,” says the report.
But inspectors also found areas that require improvement, including adoption and looked after children.
The report outlines a number of recommendations, which are already the subject of an action plan being drawn up by the Council.
The Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Councillor Ann McCoy, said: “We’re hugely encouraged by the findings of this report but we are far from complacent. As the report acknowledges, we take our corporate parenting role very seriously because there is no greater responsibility for us as a local authority than protecting vulnerable children and young people in the Borough.
“This is very much reflected in the hard work and dedication of our staff, who do so much to provide the best possible outcomes for our children and young people in what are often very challenging circumstances. It is particularly pleasing to see the report identify that staff are very proud to work in Stockton-on-Tees, and that social workers feel valued and supported.
“But we are also determined to drive swift improvement in the areas needed and take great heart from Ofsted’s description of us as a local authority that ‘knows itself very well’, is good at recognising where it needs to improve and at taking action to address this. Inspectors say they’ve seen good evidence of sustained improvement since our last inspection, and we’re doing everything possible to continue that trend.”
The four week inspection of the Council’s children’s services was conducted between May 23 and June 16 under Ofsted’s single inspection framework.
A total of 104 local authorities have been inspected under the framework so far, with inspections of all 154 local authorities set to be completed late next year.