Wakefield children's services making 'vast progress' two years after being placed into special measures
Wakefield Council's children's services are "responding robustly" to the pandemic, but still have more work to do, Ofsted inspectors have said.
The comments were made in a letter to Wakefield Council's children's services team following a visit from inspectors.
The authority's children's services were placed into special measures in July 2018, after an Ofsted visit found "serious and widespread failures" in the department.
But in their latest focused visit to the service, Ofsted found that the council had been able to "respond robustly" to the challenges of the pandemic, and noted "greatly improved performance management" within the service.
Additional investment in staffing at resourcing in the services is helping to stabilise the workforce and "improve the quality of social work practice", inspectors said.
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.
Councillor 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."
The latest focused visit was carried out in early November, using a mixture of in-person and virtual meetings with social workers, managers and leaders.
In a letter following their visit, which was published this week, inspectors praised a significant reduction in the number of permanent exclusions in the district, and the attention to the health and wellbeing of children in care.
They also noted that senior leaders in the service were not allowing themselves to be distracted by the pandemic, though noted that the support that social workers receive through supervision "is not yet consistently good".
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."
View the full letter on the Ofsted website.