STOCKTON-on-Tees Borough Council has pledged to respond quickly after Ofsted inspectors found its children’s services “require improvement to be good”.
The rating follows a four-day inspection in May under Ofsted’s Inspection of Local Authority Children's Services (ILACS) framework, which was introduced last year.
Inspectors found a number of strengths, including “effective” safeguarding and early help for families, “strong” services for care leavers, and improved workforce stability.
New “edge of care” and family group conferencing services are “working well” the report says, and senior leaders “have concentrated heavily on improvements”.
A “very high number” of children in care are making good progress in their education, it adds.
Social workers’ caseloads are “manageable” and “this is enabling them to develop longer-term, more meaningful relationships with children and families”.
But while some services are strong, inspectors reported “insufficient management oversight” across the full range of services.
This, they say, “is leading to unnecessary delay for some children in their assessed needs being met”.
Councillor Lisa Evans, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “Though the overall rating is of course disappointing, it’s also encouraging to see the inspectors recognise so many strengths and positives in our work at a time when we’re facing huge demand for our services.
“What’s important now is that we respond quickly and decisively and that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’ve gained some really valuable learning from this process and having listened very carefully, we have moved swiftly to put an action plan in place to address the areas where we need to improve.
“These areas are actually fairly narrow in their scope, but they are important and have had the effect of bringing down our overall judgement. And as inspectors acknowledge in the report, we were already onto a number of them through our own self-evaluation.
“This has all been fed into our improvement plan. We’ve got a committed and dedicated staff and we are working together proactively and methodically to deliver the improvements needed.”