Getting better but more to do - Ofsted's latest verdict on Sunderland children's service

Sunderland’s children’s service is getting better but still has work to do, say inspectors.

Tuesday, 11th May 2021, 7:00 am

Together for Children was set up by the city council in 2017, following damning reports into the standards of the former Children’s Services department.

An inspection in 2019 found progress was being made but criticised the pace of change.

The latest investigation saw a team of five inspectors carry out remote interviews with managers, staff and clients in an on-line ‘focused visit’ as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Together for Children's Jill Colbert
Together for Children's Jill Colbert

The team concentrated on the areas of concern raised in previous inspections.

A letter to Together for Children chief executive Jill Colbert released today, Tuesday, May 11, sets out the team’s findings.

It highlights improvements to management oversight and enthusiasm of staff; the organisation’s work with city schools during the pandemic; and support for children at highest risk.

The letter describes child protection strategy discussions as ‘timely and well attended’; says most of the child protection work seen is strong and praises the work of the Missing, Slavery, Exploitation and Trafficked group.

The team found there was ‘clear managerial oversight at significant decision-making points’ in child protection work, and saw ‘good work and much-improved forward planning and identification of risk’ by the new pre-birth team and through family network meetings, the letter states.

Support provided to children in care is, ‘in the main, good’ and young people who were interviewed said they had experienced experienced ‘a much-enhanced service’.

But the report still flags up some areas for attention.

It says managerial oversight remains ‘too variable’, some decisions are being based on insufficient information, and there there is ‘variability in the quality of some child protection planning due to insufficiently specific plans and a lack of focus’.

Jill Colbert said bosses were happy with the outcome of the visit: “We are delighted to see that our progress has been recognised in so many areas,” she said.

“The feedback from Ofsted’s latest visit is encouraging, constructive and a clear indicator that we are on the right track.”

Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services Coun Louise Farthing, said: “I am confident staff will continue to focus on those areas identified, always keeping what’s best for children in mind.”

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