Rotherham MBC’s children’s services have been rated ‘good’ for the first time since the child sexual exploitation scandal in the town.
In a report published today following an inspection in November, Ofsted praised the council’s “impressive” corporate response since widespread and serious service failures which put children at risk were identified in 2014.
The report said: “The quality and impact of services for children are transformed. Risks to children are recognised early and responded to, ensuring their safety.”
Rotherham’s director of children’s services Ian Thomas told LGC in November 2014 that turning around the council’s children’s services would be the “toughest job in the country”.
Rotherham has been subject to government intervention since February 2015, after an independent review by Dame Louise Casey found the council needed to undergo “fundamental change” in the wake of the scandal involving 1,400 children.
One week after a series of council-commissioned reports into the events surrounding the scandal were published in September last year, communities secretary Sajid Javid handed back to the council control of its community safety department which oversees community cohesion.
However, three commissioners led by Mary Ney have retained enhanced oversight over services supporting victims of domestic violence. Commissioners also retain executive decision-making powers over the council’s children’s social care services, special allowances, as well as the appointment and dismissal of any statutory officers, while they also retain oversight of all returned functions.
Today’s Ofsted report said Rotherham’s leaders and senior managers had prioritised the improvement of key service areas, with valuing frontline managers and staff identified as essential to securing positive change.
It adds: “Corporate ownership, well-cultivated partner relationships and increased financial investment enable the service to be highly responsive to local needs.
“This includes the creation of a dedicated multi-agency team to focus on complex abuse work and investment in identifying and supporting children who are at risk of sexual exploitation.”
Ofsted rated Rotherham ‘good’ overall and ‘outstanding’ on the experiences and progress of care leavers.
However, services for looked after children and achieving permanence were judged to ‘require improvement’.
Inspectors said permanence is not achieved for all children soon enough, while assessments were not deemed sufficiently robust to inform decisions on placements and “broader needs”.
The report adds: “Historic instability in the workforce has meant that many children looked after have experienced changes in social worker [sic] and that too many children have experienced placement disruption and change, particularly those who have more complex and challenging needs.
“The local authority is aware of this and is taking positive action to improve placement quality and choice in order to reduce disruption.”
Responding today’s report, Mr Thomas said: “The last report talked about the importance of strong effective leadership and strong governance and to ensure that the standards against which we are measured be widely shared, understood and adhered to.
“We have made these changes and more right across children’s services, which is due to the grip and pace we have insisted upon, no matter how difficult this was at times.”
In another Ofsted report also published today, Sandwell MBC’s children’s services were judged to be ‘inadequate’.
Former education secretary Justine Greening ordered the council to devise proposals to transfer children’s services to a trust in October last year, after deciding improvements had been too slow.
Sandwell Children’s Trust is due to be launched on 1 April.
Cabinet member for children’s services Simon Hackett (Lab) said: “First let me say how disappointed we are in the outcome of this re-inspection, however we make no excuses - the service still isn’t where it needs to be.”
Somerset CC’s children’s services were rated as ’requiring improvement’ in an Ofsted report published today, after being rated ’inadequate’ following two previous inspections.