Our response to the 2019 Ofsted inspection

Children's Services in Kirklees have improved significantly, according to a new Ofsted inspection report

The report highlights the progress made in developing support for children and young people, stating that the authority is showing clear and focused leadership; a strengthening of partnerships; and improved workforce stability. It adds that there are no widespread or serious failures, children who need help and protection are now recognised and the risk of significant harm is quickly responded to.

Councillor Shabir Pandor, Leader of Kirklees Council, said: "This is excellent news and I am grateful to Ofsted for their comments, which show they have seen stepped improvement.

"These improvements are down to strong leadership and staff who work tirelessly to help our children and young people. My ambition is for Kirklees Council to have one of the best Children's Services in the country and the progress we have made is moving us in that direction."

Mel Meggs, Director of Children's Services, said: "We are pleased that Ofsted have recognised the real progress that has been made across the board. This has been achieved by hard-working staff and committed partners and means we are in a strong position to continue our improvement programme.

"We will always protect and support and always promote better outcomes, to help children fulfil their potential.

"The Ofsted report also outlines a number of areas for further improvement, which is reflected in the judgement of 'requires improvement to be good'. We are already making good progress with these changes and our ambition is to be judged outstanding in the next Ofsted inspection.

"We have a dedicated and hard-working team who care passionately about those they care for and support. It is thanks to them that we are seeing the steady improvements we are making."

Councillor Viv Kendrick, Cabinet member for Children, said: "This is an important milestone for Kirklees. Ofsted have highlighted the strides we have made and commented on the much improved standards that I see on a daily basis.

"Improvements have been made, but we must never be complacent and must never stop aiming to achieve the highest standards of care and support for those who need our help the most. The Ofsted report highlights issues as well as achievements and we will address them.

"We want children and families to have positive experiences, to receive the right support at the right time and to be happy and healthy. There is, of course, more work to be done and I am committed to continuing our improvements to be good and outstanding in the months and years to come."

The inspection of Children's Services took place in June and was the first in Kirklees since 2016. Ofsted's report confirms that Kirklees is no longer considered inadequate in any of its service areas.

The role of Ofsted

Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills) are a national body whose role is to make sure that organisations which provide education, training and care services in England do so to a high standard.

They carry out thousands of inspections every year and publish their findings with the aim of improving standards, both in individual organisations and across the wider sector. Ofsted provide a formal judgement which can be one of: outstanding; good; requires improvement to be good; or inadequate.

What they inspected

Ofsted were inspecting Kirklees Children's Services. We welcomed their visit because it was a chance to demonstrate the improvements that have been made in Kirklees and was also an opportunity to receive feedback from an outside body.

In particular, the inspectors looked at:

  • The experiences and progress of children who need help and protection
  • The experiences and progress of children who are in care and/or who are care leavers
  • The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families

The outcome

The inspection showed that services for children and young people in Kirklees have improved significantly since the last inspection. The report highlights several areas which still need to be developed but also several areas where practice is strong, with children, young people and families being supported well.

At the previous inspection in 2016, services were assessed as inadequate. Due to hard work, commitment and the council's clear focus on raising standards, they are now judged as requires improvement to be good. Ofsted highlighted that:

  • Progress has been achieved in many ways
  • There are no serious failures
  • Any significant risk of harm receives a quick response

At the same time, there is plenty of room for further progress and we are absolutely committed to continuing our work.

Improvements since the last inspection

Ofsted outlined a number of strengths across Children's Services. These included:

  • Children have their needs met by social workers, who know their children well. There is strong practice with the quality of direct work with children, especially those who are leaving care
  • For children who have experienced domestic abuse, there is a strong and well co-ordinated response by the council and its partners
  • There has been continuous progress in the initial response to children when they are in need of help and protection
  • Social workers engage with families in a positive way, which means there are meaningful relationships and families are able to shape the way they are supported
  • The development of a special centre for care leavers, which aims to prepare them for independence and adult life, is a high-quality resource
  • Senior managers understand the needs of children and their families well. They have also targeted the areas of greatest impact for children and are creating the right conditions for social work practice to flourish

Things that still need to get better

The inspection has confirmed our own view that progress still needs to be made in several areas. It is a major council priority for children to have the best start in life, helping them to fulfil their potential, and we have a clear focus on continuing to develop.

Areas highlighted include:

  • The quality of written plans, so that they include clear timelines and contingency planning
  • The way certain groups are supported, including disabled children, those who may be at risk when allegations have been made against professionals and those in private fostering arrangements
  • The response to children who go missing from home and care, so that a better understanding can be gained about why they went missing
  • Care leavers' understanding of their health histories
  • The quality of foster carer reviews

We had already identified the areas highlighted by Ofsted and we are continuing to make progress so that our many examples of good practice become more consistent. Ofsted also recognised that we have made a number of changes where, at the time of the inspection, the full impact could not yet be seen.

We are confident that the impact of these improvements will be clearly evident when Ofsted return.

Ofsted comments about child sexual exploitation (CSE)

CSE is a national issue and we are continuing to work closely with the police and other partners in reducing the risk to young people. A recent independent review, which looked at current policies and procedures, found many examples of good practice, including the support available to children and families and the quality of training that helps professionals to understand exploitation.

Abuse of any kind will not be tolerated in Kirklees and, whilst Ofsted were inspecting a much broader range of services, they praised the way we are working with other organisations to address CSE. The report states: "The response to child sexual exploitation is well co-ordinated to mitigate risk. As a result, the circumstances of many of these children are improving."

The role of children and young people in the inspection

Ofsted spoke to children and young people as part of their inspection and we are pleased that they did so. We strongly believe that children's views should always be taken into account and we aim to put the voice of the child at the heart of our work.

Ofsted commented on:

  • The way we encourage children and young people to share their opinions in a range of different meetings and reviews
  • Children in care, and care leavers, take part in a wide variety of activities
  • They also have regular discussions with staff so that we can understand their priorities and support them accordingly

Next steps

We already have a range of improvement plans and strategies, which all work together in protecting and supporting young people. However, the Ofsted report will help to shape our work even further so that standards are raised to the highest possible level.

There has been a huge amount of progress since the previous inspection and Ofsted have confirmed that we are heading in the right direction. Equally, there is still a long way to go. We look forward to Ofsted returning so that we can demonstrate further improvements in helping the most vulnerable children in Kirklees.

Ofsted report

Inspection of children's social care services
Inspection dates: 10 June 2019 to 21 June 2019