Inspectors have praised Children’s Services at Norfolk County Council, judging the authority as “good” and highlighting “exemplary” and “exceptional” areas of practice.
In an inspection report published today (Friday 13 January), Ofsted said “significant improvements” had been made in services for children and their families, recognising stable and determined leadership, investment in services, and “compassionate, warm and committed workers and carers.”
Inspectors said children’s “voices, wishes and feelings shine brightly” in case records and described children and young people’s participation as a strength of the authority.
The report follows a two-week inspection in November, the first full inspection of its kind since 2017, when Norfolk was judged as “requires improvement.”
Known as an Inspection of Local Authority Children’s Services (ILACS), the inspection looked at the support the council offers children and families from before birth through to adult life. The judgement relates to all services from early help and prevention, to more specialist support for families with the greatest needs.
In the report, inspectors said:
“Significant improvements have been made in services for children and families since the last inspection in 2017.
“A stable and determined children’s senior leadership team, endorsed by councillors, has been innovative, establishing a shared practice culture and new ways of working which have transformed services.”
Inspectors said that “the vast majority of children in Norfolk receive high quality services and have good relationships with their social workers, which is leading to continued improvements in their circumstances.”
Ofsted described support for care leavers as demonstrating “exemplary practice” and said children in care are provided with “exceptional services.”
Cllr John Fisher, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services at Norfolk County Council, said:
“Ofsted has recognised the huge progress we have made in recent years, which is testament to the tremendous effort of all those working across the service. I want to thank all of our staff and carers for their dedication and commitment to Norfolk’s children and young people and for the role they have played in this Ofsted judgement.
“As a council we have continued to invest in children’s social care, despite the financial pressures faced by all local authorities. This has helped us to transform services so that we can help families earlier and reduce the number of children needing to come into care. When children do come into our care, inspectors have found that our services are exceptional, that we understand our children, listen to their wishes and feelings and provide them with a strong range of support.
“Our focus now is to continue to build on the exemplary areas of practice, so that all of our services for children and families are outstanding.”
Ofsted said that adoption services remained a strength, independent reviewing officers are “strong advocates for children” and planning and decision making for babies needing early protection was a “particular strength.”
They also highlighted the “effective support” of the Targeted Youth Support Service, in diverting children away from criminal exploitation and the skilful work of the social workers taking calls where there were concerns about children (known as the Children’s Advice and Duty Services).
Inspectors described the Executive Director of Children’s Services as an “exemplary leader” and recognised the strength of partnership working in the county.
They said further improvement was needed in the response to children aged 16 and 17 who present as homeless; the recognition and response to neglect, and the support and decision-making for children placed with family and friends.
Sara Tough, Executive Director of Children’s Services at Norfolk County Council, said:
“This report reflects the huge effort of all of our staff in improving services for children and young people in the county. It has taken a huge amount of work and has come amidst a global pandemic and when public services are under significant pressure which makes it all the more impressive.
“This report shows that outcomes for children are at the heart of everything we do and the work we are doing is helping to improve the lives of children and families across the county. Ofsted recognised our commitment to participation, our efforts to listen to children and young people and the strength of our social work practice, which is based on developing strong and effective relationships with children, families and our partners.
“We are ambitious for every child and young person and will continue to build on this positive inspection outcome, to help make Norfolk a county where all children and young people can flourish.”
You can read the full report on the Ofsted website.