Ofsted rates Hampshire's Children's Services Good with Outstanding features
Tuesday, 22 April 2014
Services for vulnerable children delivered by Hampshire County Council are 'good' overall and, in some aspects 'outstanding', as rated by Ofsted.
Ofsted arrived in February for an unannounced four-week inspection, with Hampshire being one of the first authorities to face a new, tougher framework that places greater emphasis on positive outcomes for children and young people. This framework focuses heavily on child protection and children in care. During the four weeks a team of ten inspectors thoroughly examined practice, including a detailed review of over 200 individual cases.
Inspectors concluded that overall services for children in need of help and protection, children in care and care leavers are 'good', while the adoption service is outstanding, as is leadership and governance across all children's services.
The report published today (22 April) comes at a time when the Council is working with around 6,500 children and their families in need of specialist services and the number of child protection plans has increased by 50 per cent over the last two and a half years.
Areas of work highlighted by Ofsted included:
- ambitious targets for adoption resulting in a year on year increase in the number of children being placed for adoption, including children with special needs
- good arrangements for partnership working and information sharing with health, police and adult services, which means children and their families get help at the right time and right level
- robust and clear decision making, which means "the right children are in care"
- 'exemplary' provision, working with schools and community groups, for children from diverse minority ethnic groups
- an 'exceptionally stable' workforce of good, qualified, experienced social workers and children and family support workers, with parents valuing the 'caring and no-nonsense' approach of social workers
- good support for care leavers, helping them to live independently and healthily as well as gain employment, access further education or training with participation in the Internship Plus programme described by a care leaver as 'life changing'
- children get a good start to their education, with evidence of increasing improvement in school attendance, progress and achievement
- provision of a nurturing environment and a commitment to residential care as a positive choice for young people whose needs are better met in a children's home
Committed, highly ambitious leadership is credited for the consistent good quality of services and improved outcomes for children and young people. The inspectors noted that the County Council is frequently at the forefront of good practice, evidenced by developments that are recognised nationally - the Young Interpreter's Scheme and the Wessex Dance Academy, for example.
A parallel inspection of the Hampshire Safeguarding Children Board was also undertaken, with inspectors agreeing that the effectiveness of the Board was 'good' and the report stating that evidence had been seen of strong links between the County Council's senior leadership and the Safeguarding Board's Independent Chair.
Councillor Keith Mans, Executive Lead Member for Children's Services at Hampshire County Council, said:"On behalf of the County Council I would like to thank and congratulate Children's Services staff, including those in Hampshire schools, and our partners on what is a very positive result.
"This was a particularly rigorous inspection process and while we were confident that our Children's Services are good, Ofsted's third party impartial judgement is a welcome endorsement, affirming that the children under our watch and in our care are safe and well looked after. We are especially pleased with the two outstanding judgements as we know these will be very hard to come by in the new framework. The inspectors agreed that we have the right children in care, which means we are assessing children correctly and only placing children in care when this is absolutely necessary and right to do so.
"There is always room for improvement and I am pleased to say that the areas where inspectors said we could do more had already been identified by us and plans are already in place and being implemented to make those further improvements."
"We have been clear as a County Council that our priority is to continue to protect and meet the needs of the most vulnerable children and young people in Hampshire and that has been one of our key principles in managing our budget in the face of unprecedented financial challenges. Ensuring a safe and effective social care system that continues to manage the risks between protecting and caring for the most vulnerable children and providing support to families in need is at the heart of those difficult decisions. This is one of the toughest jobs in the public sector and I am proud it is done to such a high standard in Hampshire."