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Source: City of Wakefield

​Progress made in improving services for children and young people has meant that Wakefield Council was able to “respond robustly” to the COVID-19 pandemic – that’s the conclusion from Ofsted after a recent focused visit.

The roll out of Wakefield Families Together was highlighted as just one example of “senior leaders not allowing themselves to be distracted by COVID-19 and not taking their collective foot off the pedal of continuous improvement”.

Inspectors visited the Council between 3 and 5 November, as part of Ofsted’s ongoing work with Wakefield’s children’s services after an inadequate rating in June 2018. The focussed visit was adapted to reflect the context of the COVID-19 situation to enable Inspectors to see how children’s services have responded to the pandemic, as well as reviewing Wakefield’s ongoing improvement journey.

The letter, published today (18 December), recognises that the Council’s additional investment in staffing and resources is improving the quality of social work practice. It also states that improvements in the impact and effectiveness of partnership working is starting to “make a real difference”.

Inspectors acknowledged improved performance management and confirmed that the governance arrangements are robust, with elected members providing “critical challenge and scrutiny”. Partnerships that senior leaders have succeeded in building with key partners were praised by Inspectors as being a “real source of strength”.

The Council and Ofsted acknowledge that there is more work to do and plans are in place to tackle the areas of improvement identified. These include the response to more complex cases involving neglect, and the shortage of suitable accommodation for care leavers. 

​Cllr Margaret Isherwood, Wakefield Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “The Ofsted feedback continues to confirm the vast progress that is being achieved and the positive impact this is having on children and young people in our district.

“One of the key areas I am pleased to see Ofsted highlight is the part our young people are playing in helping drive these improvements. We know, and Ofsted have agreed, that their input has made and continues to make a difference.

“There is no doubt that 2020 has been an unprecedented and challenging year for everyone. Yet, we did not lose our focus and ensured that we carried on pushing forward with our transformation.

“We know that there is still work to be done and we are very clear that our efforts will be on achieving greater consistency across services.

“Our goal remains to provide the best possible services for our children, young people and their families and I am confident that we are firmly on the way to making this a reality.”

Beate Wagner, Wakefield Council’s Corporate Director for Children and Young People, said: “We are pleased with the findings and welcome Ofsted’s ongoing support and feedback.

“We are well on track with our transformation, and are seeing the strong foundations we have built starting to deliver the necessary stability and improvements needed.

“Our ability to respond robustly during the global pandemic and continue to improve highlights the commitment, determination and good work our staff and partners are now delivering.

“It is reassuring that our partnership working has been acknowledged as effective and making a real difference to children and young people in the district, especially our multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) which is considered to be well developed.

“We know we are not yet finished in our transformation journey but we know exactly what needs to be done and have firm plans in place to focus on the areas of improvement.”

The focused visit programme is an approach taken by Ofsted to facilitate the restart of routine inspections following their suspension earlier this year as a result of COVID-19.

Wakefield’s focused visit had a broader scope to it than a monitoring visit and evaluated the quality of practice from the MASH through to the Leaving Care Service with a particular focus on the quality of key decision-making for children. Instead of the usual two inspectors that take part in the monitoring visits, there was a team of five inspectors.

The letter can be read on Ofsted’s website at https://files.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/50158433

MIL OSI United Kingdom