The first council to set up a social enterprise to deliver its children’s services has seen its Ofsted rating leap two grades in a recent inspection.
Kingston upon Thames RBC’s children’s services rating rose from “inadequate” to “good” after it created the community interest company Achieving for Children with neighbouring Richmond upon Thames LBC a year ago.
Kingston is unusual in having raised its rating from “inadequate” to “good” in consecutive inspections. Services can also be rated “requires improvement” or “outstanding” on Ofsted’s four point scale.
The council was rated “inadequate” for safeguarding in 2012 and for child protection in 2013 under Ofsted’s old thematic system of inspections. The new rating is for the whole of the children’s sevices department.
Kingston and Richmond were among the first local authorities to set up a council-owned community interest company to deliver children’s services and the only ones to do it without government intervention.
The inspection report said: “Council leaders, Achieving for Children, the local safeguarding children board and the children’s services improvement board have successfully delivered against an ambitious improvement plan. This has led to an impressive level of change in service delivery for children and families across Kingston upon Thames. Almost all areas identified for improvement in the previous inspections have been addressed in full and this is having a positive impact for children. “
The report said children and families now received effective and timely early support, and were referred to children’s services promptly if their needs increased. It said delays were usually avoided and swift action was taken to reduce risks and ensure stability for children who were looked after.
It said Kingston was particularly strong in post-adoption support and working with children to ensure their thoughts and feelings inform plans. It said areas the council could improve upon included sharing of reports before child protection conferences, timely support for privately fostered children, routine multi-agency attendance at strategy discussions, and the quality and analysis of return home interviews for children who were missing from home or care.
Achieving for Children has also been appointed as an intervention adviser by the Department for Education and is advising Doncaster MBC and Slough BC on their children’s services. The company’s chief executive Nick Whitfield has been appointed as a commissioner for children’s services in Sunderland by the DfE following the service’s “inadequate” rating last month.
Mr Whitfield, who is also director of children’s services for Kingston and Richmond councils, said: “I am delighted that Ofsted have recognised the progress that we have made. Keeping children safe is our most important responsibility and AfC have worked incredibly hard in Kingston to ensure that we were able to create a sustainable improvement in the quality of the services that we offer to families.
“For us, it is always a partnership approach and we have been incredibly well supported through our partnerships with schools, all those in health, the police and other agencies that work our children and young people.
“The hard work however does not stop here. Our clear goal is to consistently deliver an outstanding service for our young people and to have that service recognised as such by Ofsted.”