Sunderland's children's service 'making steady progress' - inspectors

Coun Louise Farthing
Coun Louise Farthing

The service looking after Sunderland’s most vulnerable children is continuing in move in the right direction, say Government inspectors.

Together for Children (TfC) took over the management of the service after it was graded as “inadequate” in July 2015.

The latest Ofsted inspection has reported improvements in the way the company initially intervenes with problems.

Ofsted inspectors, who visited in January, reported that Together for Children is 'making steady progress in improving services when problems first emerge for children, young people and their families.'

The latest visit was Ofsted’s third to Together for Children since it came into operation in April 2017, and the sixth to Sunderland since services were judged to be inadequate.

Ofsted inspectors focused their visit on the Early Help service, which aims to help at the earliest point of need, offering support before problems escalate.

The team offers support on issues such as behaviour, problems at school, routines and setting boundaries, as well as offering advice to young people and families on issues including youth offending and difficulties with alcohol or drugs.

Inspectors said the service was 'already demonstrating a significant increase in the take up of early help services, from 252 open cases in April 2017 to 646 open cases in December 2017' and added: "Together for Children is working effectively with other agencies to manage the early help response and to further develop information sharing."

Inspectors scrutinised records, data and audits, as well as conducting interviews with Early Help staff, social workers and managers and the chair and manager of the Sunderland Safeguarding Children Board, which brings agencies across the city together to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

Board chair Deborah Jenkins said: "We welcome the findings of Ofsted’s most recent monitoring visit. Our Early Help service has made huge strides since

launching in April, providing a vital system of support for Sunderland children and families at the time they need it.

"I’m extremely pleased to see our progress recognised and would like to thank staff across the company for their ongoing efforts to ensure that the organisation is taking steady strides

in the right direction."

Coun Louise Farthing, Portfolio Holder for Children's Services, said: "Everyone at Together for Children and the council is firmly committed to continuing our improvement and I’m pleased to see that Ofsted inspectors have again recognised that positive progress continues to be made by the company as we approach the culmination of its first year in operation.

"The feedback from Ofsted’s latest monitoring visit is extremely encouraging and the increased take up of the Early Help services on offer demonstrates that the company is providing the right support where it is needed.

"This latest report is another indicator that we are on the right track to restore our services to the level the children and young people of Sunderland deserve."

Inspectors also highlighted areas where there still needs to be further improvement, including difficulties with collating data, but also noted that the company is aware that

improvements are required in this area, adding: “A new electronic recording system is being launched directly following this visit."