Children's services in Sunderland 'finally turning a corner', say council chiefs

Sunderland’s struggling children’s services department is finally ‘turning a corner’, city leaders have insisted.

Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 11:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 1:40 pm

The latest assessment by government watchdog Ofsted has claimed progress remains ‘too slow’ more than four years after a damning inspection branded it ‘Inadequate’ in all areas.

But it also noted reasons to be positive, including improved recruitment, decision-making and cooperation with other organisations, such as the police, as well as staff morale.

“I think it shows we’re turning a corner and becoming a much better service,” said Coun Louise Farthing, Sunderland City Council’s cabinet member for children’s services.

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“People want to come to Sunderland and even in the Ofsted report it says they’re telling the inspectors it’s a good place to work.

“We want staff who are well supported by managers, we want the supervision which is essential for good social work and we now have that.”

She added there was ‘probably a year lost where we just stood still’ following reforms imposed by the government in the wake of 2015’s damning Ofsted inspection.

This assessment saw a new organisation, Together for Children (TfC), formed and handed responsibility for children’s services on Wearside.

A second full inspection last year (2018) again found the service ‘Inadequate’ overall, but also noted improvements in several areas, such as adoption, which was marked ‘Good’.

The latest ‘monitoring visit’, which was carried out in October and its findings published on Monday, December 16 also noted extra cash injected into TfC which Coun Farthing called ‘important’ as ‘Ofsted doesn’t have to recognise budget limitations’.

But concerns remain for Conservative opposition councillor Dominic McDonough, who in November put his name to a council motion, later dismissed by the mayor, calling on Coun Farthing to resign if there were no ‘clear improvements’ within six months.

“Time and again the same problems are being highlighted,” he said.

“Continued weakness in management have once again been highlighted and management must come from the cabinet member responsible first and foremost.

“We have a two-tier system of support at the moment with some children receiving adequate support whilst others are being let down and that simply isn’t good enough.”