High praise for children’s services in Leeds

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The services Leeds provides for vulnerable children have been rated as ‘Good’ with outstanding leadership, management and governance, in an Ofsted report.

Following a rigorous and thorough inspection in to the services the council provides for children in need of help and protection, children in care and care leavers, Ofsted inspectors rated Leeds as ‘Good’ overall – making it the only ‘core city’ in the country to be rated so highly (of those inspected under the new framework).

The inspectors highlighted many aspects of the council’s children’s services as good and acknowledge the swift progress which has been made over the past five years. One of the main elements which brought praise from the inspectors was the leadership, management and governance which was rated as ‘outstanding’ – there is only one other authority in the UK which has achieved this rating. The report states that: “Children’s services in Leeds benefit from outstanding, inspirational and confident operational and political leadership”.

The report also rates the effectiveness of the Leeds Safeguarding Children Board as ‘good’ and says it has ‘effective leadership’.

Amongst the council’s key strengths highlighted in the report are: “Children and young people are at the heart of the city’s ‘growth strategy’.”

“Safeguarding is a key priority within this strategy and the Leeds approach is underpinned by strong governance arrangements and committed city-wide partnerships.”

“Leeds has successfully integrated local authority, health and third sector services ....Multi-agency, locality ‘cluster’ arrangements ensure that good and effective use is made of local partnerships...”

Nigel Richardson, director of children’s services said: “This great achievement is only possible through the hard work of the staff across the service who really do put children at the heart of everything they do. Whether it is by working directly with vulnerable children and their families or support staff who work behind the scenes – everyone has a vital part to play in helping to improve the lives of children and young people across the city. Being described as a place where ‘great social work can flourish’ and as having ‘tenacious staff’ is a wonderful testament to the amazing staff we have and the dedication they show every day.

“Our pledge to make Leeds a child friendly city is key element of our city’s growth strategy. Leeds has a very diverse population with areas of disadvantage and the challenges these bring, which makes this recognition all the more rewarding. We are of course not complacent and are well aware that this is only one step on our journey to improve the lives of all children and young people.”

The council’s work on identifying young people at risk of child sexual exploitation was also commended; “Considerable progress has been made over the past two years in tackling child sexual exploitation” and “There is a robust and well-coordinated response to children who are missing and/or at risk of experiencing child sexual exploitation.”

The inspectors recognised that the council ‘has set clear priorities for children’s services and

The Ofsted report follows an announcement in February that Leeds had secured £4.8 million from the Department for Education’s Innovation Programme to launch new ways of providing children’s social care. The programme is part of the council’s approach to building a restorative, family-centred model that works with families to build the skills, support and resilience so they can find their own solutions to the challenges they face and solve problems earlier, before they reach a point of crisis. The report acknowledges that the council’s ‘unique investment and commitment to ‘Restorative Practices’ is having a transformational impact on culture and professional practice across both the social work service and the Children’s Partnership.” The report also suggests that restorative practice is; ‘successfully challenging traditional social work approaches’.