Gateshead Council’s Children and Families service has been given the rating of “good” following an inspection.
The service was said to have very good practice in a range of areas, including: family support in relation to domestic abuse; fostering support; performance management; and promoting children’s rights.
The Ofsted report said: “Children’s services in Gateshead are good because leaders, managers and workers are highly effective.
“[There is a] strong corporate commitment to safeguarding and improving outcomes for all children and young people in the borough.”
The council’s response to children at risk of sexual exploitation and those who go missing from home and care, was described as a “particularly strong area” in the report.
It’s multi-agency approach to safeguarding and managing risk was also recognised in the report.
Councillor Angela Douglas, cabinet member for children and young people at Gateshead Council said: “We’re delighted that our hard work and commitment to children and young people in Gateshead has been recognised and acknowledged by Ofsted.
“It’s of great satisfaction that many key issues are seen as particular strengths, such as our corporate commitment to safeguarding children, strong multi-agency partnerships, child protection arrangements, approach to child sexual exploitation and direct work with children.
Ofsted inspectors visited the council in November and looked at children who needed help and protection, children in the ‘looked after’ system, which included adoption performance and care leavers.
The report noted that “responses to child protection concerns are timely and robust and that social workers had manageable caseloads, were well supported by managers and that the workforce was stable.”
Adoption performance was also rated as “good”, with good post adoption support, children being well matched with adopters and few delays or adoption breakdowns.
Special mention was made of the service having a good record for placing older children and groups of siblings.
Cllr Angela Douglas, added: “Children are indeed at the heart of good practice in Gateshead.
“The council and its partners all strive to make sure that the best possible outcomes are provided for children and young people.”
However, the report identified some improvements that could be made for the experience and progress of care leavers, which are being addressed by the council.
The report did acknowledge that all care leavers are offered safe, secure and suitable accommodation and that the arrangements for keeping in touch with and supporting care leavers were effective, with young care leavers valuing the support they receive.
The Ofsted report into Children’s Services also recognises the part played right across the Council by both staff, and council members, noting that “elected members take corporate parenting very seriously” and that there is a “strong ethos of collective responsibility across the council” helping to achieve the best outcomes for children.
Cllr Angela Douglas, cabinet member for children and young people at the council, added: “We’re fully aware that we need to continuously look for ways to improve in all areas, even where we’ve already demonstrated very good ways of working.
“There’s a very dedicated and hard working team who are committed to doing so and this report confirms we are on the right track.”
The Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) was inspected at the same time and requires improvement to be “good”, due to issues such as gaps in its membership, monitoring of services and lack of robustness in the analysis of its training.
But the LSCB had already identified areas for improvement, which it shared with Ofsted, and has put plans into action to tackle these issues.
The LSCB had clear strong commitment from key statutory agencies and that good collaborative working had resulted in an effective approach to safeguarding, child sexual exploitation and prevention of extremism.
Independent Chair of Gateshead LSCB, Gary Hetherington said: “We welcome the challenge presented by Ofsted, we had already identified areas for improvement and many of the recommendations have already been actioned.
“We are a strong partnership with good examples of working together so we’re well equipped to bring about the improvements identified. The LSCB and its partners are committed to driving forward change so children in Gateshead are able to fulfil their true potential.”