Oxfordshire’s children’s social care services rated “Good” by Ofsted
That is the conclusion of a recent Ofsted inspection of children’s social care services in Oxfordshire. More than 3,100 children in Oxfordshire receive a specialist children’s service, 512 are the subject of a child protection plan and 467 are looked after by the county council.
Ofsted has four levels of ranking for local authority children’s services – Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement and Inadequate. Under Ofsted’s new inspection framework, which it describes as a ‘harder test’, there are few councils ranked as Good or Outstanding.
Inspectors visited Oxfordshire County Council from April 29 to May 21 and have concluded that the council should be rated “Good” across all three key categories of their inspection
- Children who need help and protection,
- Children looked after (including adoption performance and experiences and progress of care leavers)
- Leadership, management and governance.
A good local authority is described by Ofsted as one that “leads effective services that help protect and care for children and young people and those who are looked after and care leavers have their welfare safeguarded and promoted”.
A copy of the report can be found here
Praise for tackling child sexual exploitation
The report made clear that the work done by the joint county council, Thames Valley Police and health service Kingfisher team to combat child sexual exploitation is “high quality”, and that “large numbers of professionals have been effectively trained to identify potential indications of child sexual exploitation”. It also said that “good arrangements are in place to respond when children go missing from home and care”.
Ofsted also noted that the council’s two children’s homes were judged to be “good” and “outstanding” in their most recent Ofsted inspections.
Jim Leivers, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director for Children, Education and Families, said: “Ofsted set very high standards. Our services for children have been judged to be good under the tougher inspection regime that Ofsted has brought in to raise standards. The rating is the result of hard work by everyone who works with children and families.”
“We are pleased that Ofsted has found that children’s social services are strong and effective, and make a real difference to the lives of the most vulnerable children and young people in Oxfordshire.”
In addition to its praise for the way the council works with other agencies to manage issues linked to child sexual exploitation, Ofsted praised the council in the following areas:
- Child protection agencies work well together.(Paragraph 2)
- Work to help troubled families is “targeted and responsive with good take up by those families most in need” (Paragraphs 2, 24)
- Child protection inquiries are “carefully planned by children’s social care with the police and other agencies and investigated thoroughly” (Paragraph 3)
- Children say they have good, long-term relationships with social workers (Paragraphs 5, 37, 106)
- Social workers make good decisions ’based on evidence about the child’s needs” (Paragraph 6)
- The Family Placement Support Service is described as “a particular strength” and works effectively with families to prevent children coming into care. (Paragraph 7)
- Young people are said to be “well supported when they leave care” and “most care leavers feel well supported by their social workers” (Paragraph 9, 81)
Areas for improvement
Ofsted always identifies areas for improvement when it conducts inspections, even if the overall conclusion of its inspection is that a council is given a positive rating. (Paragraphs 14-23)
The inspectorate has recommended that the council looks to
- Recruit more foster carers so that looked after children can be placed in or near their own communities
- Develop and implement an ambitious strategy to ensure that care leavers engage in education, training and employment,
- Ensure that children and young people who are looked after have an independent advocate to represent their views if they wish.
- Improve educational outcomes for children in care
Committed to high performance
Ofsted found that services for children and families are a priority for elected members, – who have “high aspirations for looked after children in Oxfordshire” (Paragraphs 11 & 92-108)
Councillor Melinda Tilley, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, Education and Families, said: “There has been a lot in the news about our joint work with the police to combat child sexual exploitation. It is, of course, welcome that our work in this area has been recognised as high quality. However tackling child sexual exploitation is only one part of of the overall work we do – and it is reassuring that all our work with children and families has been recognised as good.
“We’ve now got to sustain these performance levels in to the future. Ofsted will no doubt, rightly, have raised the bar yet again by the next time they come to visit Oxfordshire.
“Hard work lies ahead. However we are working from a very solid base and councillors from all of the different political parties are strongly committed to high performance in children’s social care, as Ofsted’s report makes clear.”