Tameside children's services no longer 'inadequate' as Ofsted notes improvements

Tameside’s services for vulnerable children have been upgraded from ‘inadequate’ after inspectors ruled ‘important improvements’ had been made.

In the first full visit since Ofsted branded the council’s services as failing in 2016, the watchdog has now changed its rating to ‘requires improvement to be good’.

Lead inspector Dominic Stevens was positive about the town hall’s recent adoption of a strengthened approach to transforming their services for youngsters.

Deputy council leader Bill Fairfoull said an ‘enormous amount of work’ had gone into improving the standard of social care since the last inspection.

However the report, which was published on Monday following a two week visit in May, states that there are still areas where bosses must do better.

These include getting children into permanent care arrangements more quickly.

Caseloads for some social workers are still too high, and children interviewed during the inspection said the turnover of staff had affected their ability to form trusting relationships.

Half of the children in care in the borough have experienced three or more changes of social worker in the last year, the report states. 

“Most children in Tameside continue to receive services that require further improvement to be good as a result of slow progress in tackling key areas for development identified at the time of the last inspection in 2016,” Mr Stevens said.

However he added that the the ‘scale and effectiveness’ of early help services has been strengthened through a new locality based model that is now ‘serving most children well’.

“A new multi-agency safeguarding hub is ensuring that referrals about children for whom there  are safeguarding concerns are almost always dealt with quickly and appropriately, while an ‘edge of care’ team works intensively with families to ensure that children only come into care when they need to,” Mr Stevens said.

There has been a significant increase in investment which was showing real results, including two temporary social work teams and and a ‘renewed political drive’ to improving support for care leavers, the report states.

But in his report Mr Stevens concluded: “However, much progress, particularly in services for children in care, is very new and so impact is inevitably limited. 

“The local authority is not providing the consistently good services for children that it aspires to.”

He identifies that support for disabled children is not always of good quality or progressed quickly enough. 

Educational progress and attainment is not ‘consistently strong’, as children in care do not always receive support which targets their needs, according to the watchdog.

Children in care in Key Stage 1 and in Key Stage 4 are still achieving below the national average at school.

And ‘until very recently’, support, training and development for foster carers were ‘key weaknesses’ in Tameside.

Councillor Fairfoull, who has recently taken on the portfolio for children and families, thanked staff and partners for their hard work in boosting the authority’s rating.

“An enormous amount of work has gone into turning the service around since the last inspection and I’m pleased Ofsted has reported notable improvement,” he said.

“The inspectors gave some positive feedback about key parts of the service and identified areas for ongoing improvement, which will provide a clear focus for our continued improvement journey.

“Ofsted acknowledged we have an improved understanding of our services and notably referenced our strengthened partnership working. 

“I believe we are in a strong position to keep improving further and achieve our ambition of providing outstanding children services to support local children and families to achieve their best potential and live better lives.”

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