Children’s Services in South Tyneside have been ranked as one of the best in the country after being rated “good” for the work it does with young people and families in the borough.
The four-week review by watchdog Ofsted found that services to support families and protect vulnerable children and young people were of “consistently high quality”, while the borough’s adoption service was rated as “outstanding.”
The council is now one of just 25 local authorities out of 161 across the country to have achieved a good or better rating in all the inspection categories.
The adoption service was singled out for particular praise by inspectors, who were impressed by the council’s effectiveness in finding new families for children in need.
In South Tyneside, 67% of children are placed with their adoptive family in just over a year – well above the national average.
The adoption team was also praised for the “beautifully presented” life story work which helps each child placed for adoption understand the process – through the care system into a new family.
Inspectors also praised strong leadership within the council – recognising a shared ambition to provide outstanding services for children and effective partnership working as a real strength, resulting in positive outcomes for children.
Coun Joan Atkinson, lead member for children, young people and families, said: “This is a fantastic result and one of which we should all be very proud.
“South Tyneside is an area with high levels of deprivation and associated complex social care needs do come with this. In 2010, the council set itself a challenge to make South Tyneside an outstanding place to live, invest and bring up families.
“The services we provide to protect our most vulnerable young people in South Tyneside and the investments we have made to give every young person the best start in life are making a real difference, and this external endorsement has recognised that.
“This report is a reflection of the professionalism and commitment of our staff and partners and I pay tribute to their dedication.
“We continue to invest in and reshape services in South Tyneside to improve outcomes for those children and young people who need our help.”
She added: “By placing children at the heart of everything we do and re-shaping our services, the council is managing to positively transform the life chances of some of our most vulnerable young people.
“In light of the challenging financial constraints in which councils now have to operate, this is a remarkable achievement.”
The key findings in report by Ofsted inspectors
•The pace of change has been impressive. There have been significant improvements to services for children who have disabilities.
•Senior leaders and managers build and retain strong and trusting relationships with partners and are committed to working together to deliver improved services for children and young people.
•South Tyneside Safeguarding Children Board meets its statutory requirements effectively. Strong governance, with priorities clearly aligned to key areas for safeguarding children, has ensured that the board is increasingly influential in improving the quality of services to children.
•The council and partners have improved the response to children at risk of exploitation and children who go missing.
•Services for care leavers are good. Young people live in safe and supportive housing and are well supported. The vast majority of care leavers aged 16-18 are well supported to continue their education and training or to enter the world of work. However, more support needs to be offered to those aged 19-21 who are not in employment, education or training.
•Effective safeguarding is provided through the new Integrated Safeguarding Interventions Team.
•The voices of looked-after children are being increasingly heard through the Children in Care Council.
•Adoption services are outstanding. Children with a plan for adoption are identified early, prepared well to live with their adoptive families and benefit from permanence without delay.