Children's Services in Wolverhampton have been judged to be "Good" by Ofsted, with the help and support available to vulnerable children, young people and families in the City ranked in the top 20% nationally.

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That is the outcome of an indepth review into how the care and support provided by the City of Wolverhampton Council and its partners protects children and young people, supports families and improves their quality of life and future prospects.

The 4 week inspection, which took place from 16 January to 9 February, 2017, looked closely at the experiences of children and young people who need help or protection, including looked after children, children leaving care and those making the transition to adulthood.

Ofsted published its Type=media;MediaID=12508;Title=report;Target=_blank; today (Friday 31 March, 2017) and judged Children's Services in Wolverhampton as "Good" overall. It means that Children's Services in Wolverhampton are among the best in the West Midlands and joint 23rd out of the 129 areas nationwide to have been assessed by Ofsted under the current single assessment framework.

Councillor Val Gibson, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: "This is a very positive report which not only recognises the fantastic work professionals at the City of Wolverhampton Council and our partners are doing day in, day out, but also demonstrates the real impact it is having on improving the lives of vulnerable children, young people and their families.

"Inspectors have scrutinised our services in minute detail, highlighting the many areas where we are performing well, and identifying areas where we can and will do better.

"It is particularly pleasing that the inspection team has recognised that the major transformation underway within Children's Services is bringing real benefits to service users. Indeed, inspectors interviewed a number of families who spoke very positively about the help they were given through our new Strengthening Families Hubs.

"While we are of course delighted to have been judged to be Good overall, we will not for one moment rest on our laurels and will continue to do all we can to improve outcomes for people in Wolverhampton wherever possible.

"We have developed a robust action plan to raise standards still further, have taken on board the recommendations made to us by Ofsted and are working closely with partners to address areas where we are not yet operating at as high a level as we could be."

In his report, Lead Inspector Nigel Parkes found that:

  • senior managers, leaders and elected members at the City of Wolverhampton Council are "systematically driving improvements in services for children and families" and, through having a "clear sense of vision and purpose" and "focusing on key priorities", are delivering "better outcomes for children" across a range of areas

  • the recent transformation of Early Help services - which brought early intervention workers, social workers, midwives and health visitors more closely together within eight new Strengthening Families Hubs - is enabling families to get "the right help in the right way at the right time"

  • the development of Wolverhampton's Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub -launched in January 2016 to improve information sharing and intelligence gathering when a concern is first reported - has helped ensure that "appropriate action is taken to safeguard and protect children and young people", including those who go missing or are risk of being sexually exploited

  • "good and sustained" improvements have been made across all services for looked after children, with edge of care services "targeted effectively to prevent avoidable family breakdown", meaning children are only going into care when it was right that they should do. Most children come into care in a planned way, and only when appropriate

  • the council has significantly reduced the number of children in care without compromising their safety - the number of looked after children reducing from 780 to 626 in 18 months - while most of those who are in care are "living in stable placements". Looked after children of school age are also benefiting from a "strong and effective" virtual school which is delivering positive outcomes - indeed attainment levels of looked after children in Wolverhampton are higher than their peers

  • good use is being made of adoption where it is the right outcome for a child, and the timeliness of legal proceedings is improving. Those leaving care receive "a good, individualised service which prepares them well for independence", and appropriate action is being taken to increase the number of care leavers in education, work or training. "All care leavers live in suitable accommodation"

  • the City of Wolverhampton Council "takes its responsibilities as a corporate parent very seriously", involving children and young people in shaping the way in which services are developed and delivered

Overall, inspectors rated leadership, management and governance; services for looked after children; adoption performance; and the experiences and progress of care leavers to all be "Good".

Inspectors noted that the help and protection which children and young people receive "Requires Improvement" in order to be "Good". The City of Wolverhampton Council has put in place a range of measures to improve the quality of analysis, assessments and plans; to ensure that the child's voice is given sufficient prominence and consistently clearly articulated in case files; that the level of critical challenge from frontline managers is consistently robust; and to ensure that children always get the help and support they need quickly enough. An action plan is due to be presented to Cabinet next month.

Linda Sanders, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Strategic Director - People, said: "The areas where we need to improve are the areas which we identified as needing strengthening in our own self assessment of performance. The ongoing transformation of Children's Services will go a long way to helping us achieve our aims, as will the additional measures we are putting in place in response to the recommendations from Ofsted.

"It is worth putting this performance into context - only one other authority in the whole of the West Midlands has been rated 'Good' under the current framework so far. We are clearly heading in the right direction, but we can and will still get better.

"There are only 2 councils nationally which have been rated as 'Outstanding'; we want to continue our rapid transformation and join them.

"I would like to say a big thank you to everyone involved in the inspection process, from colleagues at the council and our partners, to those children and young people and their families who gave up their time to talk candidly about their experiences of Children's Services in Wolverhampton."

Inspectors considered the quality of work and the difference it makes to the lives of children, young people and families in Wolverhampton, and reviewed case files, observed how professionals work with families and each other and assessed the effectiveness of help and care given to children and young people.

Wherever possible, they talked to children, young people and their families to understand their experiences of Children's Services in Wolverhampton.

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  • released: Friday 31 March, 2017