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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Bradford Children’s Services showing ‘signs of improvement’ – according to Ofsted

Children’s services in Bradford are “showing signs of improvement” – with an increase in permanent staff.

This is the finding of Ofsted inspectors following the most recent visit to Bradford to see the progress of its children’s services.

The service was judged Inadequate in 2018, and after years’ of slow improvement it was taken over by a new Children’s Trust in April 2023.

Concerns over the years included a over reliance on agency staff rather than permanent social workers.

Ofsted carried out its most recent “monitoring inspection” of Bradford Children’s Services in February, and has just published its findings.

The report says: “Positively, senior leaders within the Trust, alongside those within the council have a thorough understanding of the issues and what needs to improve in this area of practice.

“The appointment of the new CEO at the Council is bringing strong and crucial oversight, support and challenge to the Trust and the council.

“Trust senior leaders recognise that for too many children, their long-term futures have been uncertain for too long. Many children have been subject to child protection for a considerable length of time.

“The long history of inadequate practice across children’s social care, which pre-dates the Trust, has resulted in delays in action being taken when the local authority is concerned about a child’s safety and well-being. Trust leaders fully understand the challenges in this practice area and the impact on children. They have taken very positive and robust action to begin to make the improvements needed.

“More recent practice is beginning to show signs of improvement.

“Some children in Bradford have experienced many changes of social workers.

“Positively, the landscape is starting to change, with an increasing number of permanent staff within this practice area.

“There is increasing evidence that children and families are being helped sooner in order to bring about positive changes. Parents are being better supported to make improvements to their parenting before care proceedings are issued.

“Social workers spoken to told inspectors that they feel more settled and are better supported in their work. They describe visible senior leaders who are very approachable. A number commented that the relationship-based model of social work which has been introduced is becoming more embedded and that Bradford feels a more stable place to work.

“There are undoubtedly significant resource and capacity challenges which impact on work in this practice area and across the Trust. The newly appointed CEO at the council clearly understands the challenges, recognises the importance of children’s social care and is already bringing strong and crucial oversight, support and challenge to the trust and the council. This, together with the trust and the council’s commitment to make the improvements needed, is helping to ensure that the direction of travel is now the right one for children in this practice area while recognising there is still much more to do.”

Eileen Milner, Chair of Bradford Children and Families Trust, said: “We welcome the findings of Ofsted’s recent monitoring visit which focussed on pre-proceedings under the Public Law Outline.

“The report highlights a number of areas of progress in this area of practice, including that families are being helped sooner in order to bring about positive changes. This reflects our strong focus on early help and working with families as part of a restorative practice approach. It is also really positive to hear that social workers told the inspectors that they feel settled and supported.

“We know that there is more work to do, and inspectors confirmed that the Trust and the Council have a thorough understanding of the challenges and are committed to delivering the improvements needed.”

Cllr Sue Duffy, portfolio holder for children and families, said: “It’s very good to see that inspectors spoke with social workers who say they feel more settled and better supported and that Bradford feels a more stable place to work.”

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