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Ofsted finds 'substantial improvement' in Children's Services team

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Ongoing work by Middlesbrough Council and its partners to show Middlesbrough Children that they Matter has been endorsed by Ofsted.

A monitoring visit by Ofsted inspectors found a “sustained programme of improvements” within Middlesbrough Council’s Children’s Services.

Feedback published today (May 6th) sets out how there has been a “substantial improvement in permanence planning for children in care since the last inspection”.

March’s visit was the fourth by Ofsted inspectors since the Council began its improvement journey in January 2020.

Social workers now believe a supportive workplace culture helps them achieve better outcomes for children and their families, Ofsted found.

Leaders at the Council have welcomed the findings and pledged to do all they can to improve further and continue to act on Ofsted’s recommendations.

Executive Director of Children’s Services Sue Butcher said: “Middlesbrough Children Matter and I’m proud of the work my team are putting in every day to give them the support and services they deserve.

“This latest Ofsted feedback is encouraging for us and reflects well on the changes we are making. We’re well aware we have more improvements to make and I’m confident that the commitment and passion of our staff will keep us on the right track.”

Mayor Andy Preston said: “The hard work doesn’t stop here, but this latest verdict from Ofsted shows how far we’ve come in a short space of time.

“My thanks go to Sue Butcher and every member of her team and to Cllr Mieka Smiles for her support to Sue’s directorate.”

Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Children’s Services, Cllr Mieka Smiles, said: “We’re making superb progress and I’m enormously grateful to Ofsted and the Department for Education for their guidance.

“To make the strides forward we have during a really challenging two years is hugely positive.”

The most recent inspection focused on the quality of matching, placement and decision-making for children in care alongside planning and achieving permanence for children.

Inspectors said the director of children’s services and senior managers “precisely track improvements and the areas that need further development”.

The review found that many outcome indicators for children in care are moving in the right direction and that legacy issues are being “determinedly tackled”.

Permanence planning is now less reactive and specialist teams of social workers are addressing legacy issues where some children don’t have clear plans in place. This work, Ofsted found, is having a positive impact in safely reducing the number of children in care.

Practice is stronger for children who have come into care more recently and children are brought into care “more expediently, through better quality court applications made at the right time”.

Ofsted found that the majority of children whose cases were reviewed were making good progress in their placements. Children in foster care are in “good-quality placements”, inspectors found, where they are “attending school and are supported with their hobbies and interests”.

The inspection found caseloads have continued to reduce and are manageable for most social workers. Proactive management support is in place for those with higher caseloads.

A key part of the ongoing improvement drive centres on Middlesbrough Council becoming a social work employer of choice, and in the process reducing reliance on agency staff.

As an incentive, new starters will qualify for a one-off £5,000 ‘welcome aboard’ payment on top of competitive salaries ranging from £28,672 to £36,922.

To find out more about children’s social work opportunities in Middlesbrough, visit the social work jobs in Middlesbrough website.