We’ve had some spirit-lifting news recently. The Ofsted inspectors have said that Kensington and Chelsea’s Children’s Services are the very best in the country following their rigorous inspection of the department in January.
Now, when I mention Ofsted to my friends they tend, not unreasonably, to associate it with all things to do with schools. This is hardly surprising given the attention paid by politicians, parents and the media to reports about how individual schools are performing.
But Ofsted also shines a light on services that are not always as visible as schools but equally important, in fact often vital, to how many young people and their families develop and are supported.
I’m talking here about children’s social services. This is the department charged with ensuring children are properly safeguarded and protected. It’s where we turn when a child can no longer remain with their family and needs to be cared for by other means whether through fostering, adoption or being taken directly into the care of the Council.
As well as this, Children’s Services works hard to make sure families that may be experiencing difficulties are given the support and advice that will hopefully ensure that the children prosper and don’t end up being in the sort of position where they can no longer stay with their family.
And what did the inspectors say about us? Well – the report is available here and on the Council’s website but the headline is that our services were judged to be Outstanding. This was due to a combination of factors including how well resourced they were, how well led and the talents of the front-line staff. Some highlights for me were that three quarters of young people leaving our care are in education, receiving training or have a job – this is well above the national average. Three quarters of children in care are in stable placements, mostly with foster carers who go the extra mile. All children are routinely spoken to alone by their social worker who has got to know them well, so they can talk about any difficulties they are having – either at home with their families, or, for children in care, with their foster carers.
Unfortunately we don’t have to look far to see just how catastrophic it can be when council departments with this sort of responsibility fail. Rotherham and Rochdale are clear examples of just how badly things can go wrong.
Therefore, I was very pleased and proud to read that in summarising our service for children and young people the inspectors said: “If you are a child who needs help and protection or to be looked after, this is one of the best places in the country to live.”
So a huge thank you to all the officers who have worked incredibly hard and demonstrated complete commitment to get the best outcomes for children and young people in often very challenging conditions.
While it’s always very satisfying to receive such a glowing report about our performance, I can assure you that we will never be complacent and will always look to improve.