Sunderland's children's services ranked 'outstanding' three years after 'inadequate' rating
Children’s services in Sunderland are officially ‘Outstanding’, says inspector Ofsted.
The city is the first in the country to make the jump from the worst rating – Inadequate – to the top rank.
And it has done it in just three years.
City council bosses set up a new agency – Together for Children – after a damning inspection report in 2015 highlighted problems across the board.
A follow-up review in 2018 found that while some improvements had been made, they were not sufficient to justify a revision of the ‘Inadequate’ grading.
But three years later, the local authority has become one of only 18 in England – and just four in the North of England – to be rated Outstanding.
During an inspection of services between June 28 and July 9, Ofsted found children’s services had been ‘transformed’ and were ‘making a real difference to children’s lives.’
The report assigns grades in four catogeries - it ranks the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families; the experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers; and overall effectiveness as ‘outstanding’, while the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection is rated ‘good’.
Ofsted said senior leaders had radically changed the service and social workers and their managers make decisions in the best interests of children.
City council leader Coun Graeme Miller, said: “Children and young people in Sunderland deserve the very best, so I’m absolutely delighted to see Ofsted rating our children’s services outstanding after an exceptionally difficult few years.
“None of this could have been achieved without the tremendous dedication and commitment of all the hard-working staff at Together for Children or the young people of our city who have worked with them to reshape our children’s services into something we can all be proud of.”
Ofsted noted children and families are listened to and contribute to change, something which has been central to service developments and improving the lives of children in Sunderland.
Jill Colbert, Chief Executive of Together for Children and Director of Children’s Services for the City Council, said: “The outcome of this inspection marks a turning point for children’s services and for families in Sunderland.
"It draws a line under our difficult history and celebrates the incredible work our staff have done to deliver outstanding services to children.
"I hope every member of staff, and all our partners who have offered support, feel rightly proud of what we have achieved together.”
Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Coun Louise Farthing added: “Nothing is more important to us than protecting vulnerable children so I’m particularly pleased to see Ofsted acknowledging the significant impact improvements in children’s services have had on the lives of children and young people and their families in our city, the fact that our social workers speak and care passionately about the children they work with and that our children feel they are being listened to and their views are being heard.”