Lead inspector Andy Waugh and his team carried out a week long inspection of services delivered by the City of Wolverhampton Council and its partners earlier this year.
And they found that senior leaders "have led a relentless drive to improve services”, leading to “innovative social work practice". This continuing work is “underpinned by senior leaders' determination to keep improving the experiences and outcomes for all children in the city".
Social workers "make good decisions for children”, enabling them to “receive the right help at the right time". Their work is supported by financial investment which has developed “innovative projects that make a positive difference for children”; these are having a "tangible impact on improving the experiences for vulnerable children and families".
Children increasingly receive earlier interventions through Early Help services, reducing the number of youngsters who need statutory support, while bespoke services are having a positive impact, such as Power2 which provides 'high quality, intensive support' to divert children and young people away from the risks of exploitation and The House Project, which supports care leavers to live independently.
Positive relationships are being built with children and families thanks to a mostly stable permanent workforce who have manageable caseloads. Assessments are "analytical and effective in identifying risks and needs" while social workers visit children frequently and build trusting relationships. Disabled children have social workers who understand their needs well.
Children are supported to remain with their families where it is safe to do so, and those that do come into care benefit from "effective social work practice." Creative work with children enables social workers to understand their experiences, and help children understand their journey through the care system.
Inspectors highlighted "outstanding practice" in relation to care leavers; young people ready to leave care receive "effective support" to move on to independence, while care leavers, most of whom are engaged in education, employment or training, benefit from "high quality services that make them feel valued and listened to" and develop "positive and trusting relationships with tenacious and highly dedicated personal advisers".
Senior leaders "show determination and insight" to "constantly challenge themselves and improve services". The council prioritises children’s needs at a strategic and corporate level, while leaders at all levels continue to "drive forward improvements, which has resulted in the delivery of consistently good quality services that meet the needs of children and families".
And, despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the council has continued to develop new services and form "strong and effective strategic partnerships" with other organisations.
Inspectors rated overall effectiveness to be Good; within this, they judged the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families to be Outstanding, and the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection, and the experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers, to both be Good.
They recommended 5 areas for further improvement and an action plan to address these will be presented to Ofsted this summer.
Councillor Beverley Momenabadi, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: "This is another very positive assessment of children's social care services in Wolverhampton.
"It not only recognises the vital work that the council and its partners do, day in and day out, for our city's most vulnerable children, young people and their families, but the very real impact it is having in helping to improve their lives.
"We are determined to continue the journey of improvement we have been on over the last few years – including throughout the Covid-19 pandemic – to raise standards even higher. We are pleased that inspectors have highlighted areas that are innovative and Outstanding and we welcome their recommendations for areas where we can improve further still.
"I would like to take this opportunity to place on record my thanks to everyone working in children's services, both within the council and partner organisations, for their continuing dedication to ensuring that our children and young people are able to have the very best possible start in life."