'Children in Sunderland are safer' as services continue to improve, meeting hears

Sunderland’s struggling children’s services are ‘moving in the right direction’, according to one of the bosses tasked with overseeing its improvement.

Tuesday, 21st January 2020, 4:45 pm
Sunderland Civic Centre

The department has been officially rated ‘Inadequate’ since 2015 and in 2019 progress to overhaul it was called ‘too slow’ by a government watchdog in a critical report.

But Ofsted inspectors also found reasons to be hopeful about future prospects for Wearside’s most vulnerable youngsters, praising improved recruitment, decision-making and a much-needed cash injection.

“[The children’s services department] is going in the right direction,” said Sir Paul Ennals, independent chairman of the Sunderland safeguarding Children Board, “big changes in culture and style of social work practice always take time to bed in.

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“You usually start to see the impact of significant changes one or two years later, although you see some changes much quicker than that.

“Some changes at the front door have brought immediate changes to make children safer, but the real thing that makes children safer is for frontline practitioners to feel confident and that they are trusted by their managers.”

Sir Paul was speaking at a meeting of Sunderland City Council’s Children, Education and Skills Scrutiny Committee.

Since 2017 children’s services in Sunderland have been run by Together for Children (TfC), an organisation created to take charge of the department following 2015’s damning Ofsted inspection.

Sir Paul added: “You shouldn’t be feeling complacent, but you shouldn’t be panicking either – I can never say children are safe, but children in Sunderland are safer than they were a year ago.”