Children’s services in Doncaster ‘still not good enough’, says watchdog

Doncaster Children's Trust chief executive Paul Moffat.
Doncaster Children's Trust chief executive Paul Moffat.
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CHILDRENS services in a South Yorkshire town which were taken off the local council two years ago because it was found to be failing, remain inadequate according to a new Ofsted report.

However Doncaster Council say the report, which is to be published today, does acknowledge improvements in several areas since the last inspection was carried out in 2012.

The latest Ofsted inspection looked at the work of both the council and Doncaster Children’s Services Trust - an independent body set up last year to run fostering, adoption, children’s homes and child protection in the town following Government intervention

Former Education Secretary Michael Gove took responsibility for protecting children away from Doncaster Council in 2013 following a critical Ofsted inspection and a separate report he has commissioned by Lord Carlile into the Edlington tragedy in which two young boys were tortured by two brothers.

Although the latest inspection into the town’s children’s services gives an overall rating of inadequate, both the trust and the council have welcomed some of its more positive findings.

Ofsted rated the Trust’s adoption performance as ‘good’ and praised the support provided to care leavers, saying: “Overall, this is a reflection of the progress leaders and managers are beginning to make in improving outcomes through better services for children in Doncaster.”

Paul Moffat, the chief executive of Doncaster Children’s Services Trust said: “We welcome the findings of today’s Ofsted report which shows we are heading in the right direction on our rigorous improvement journey to transform services for children, young people and families.

During the Trust’s first year our main objectives have been to stabilise and improve existing services and to develop more effective ways to solve long-standing problems.

“We know that there is still a lot to do and the inspectors confirmed the challenges we had already identified. We are making strong progress against our improvement plan and we are on track to reach the targets which were set for us by the Council and the Government.

“We are reassured that Ofsted share our own view that our services for young people in care and care leavers are already much improved. He added: We won’t be satisfied until we achieve outstanding protection and support for Doncaster’s children, and this area is seen as a beacon of excellence.”

Coun Nuala Fennelly, Doncaster Council’s cabinet member for Children, Young People and Schools, added: “The inspection recognises that a lot of progress in the right direction has been made and the political will to improve services for children and young people is evident - the Mayor and the council have made this a priority.

She added: “The Trust has been established for a little over a year now and we are on track to where we need to be. Our first milestone is to move beyond an inadequate rating by April next year.” Inspectors are said to have highlighted social workers having manageable caseloads. It says this means more children in care are benefitting from a positive relationship with their social workers. The inspectors also noted that more time will be needed to assess the impact of the council’s Early Help Strategy, to support families and children who need some support but do not meet the threshold for social care.

Inspectors said: “The pace of change has increased since October 2014 and the momentum of change has continued. Development of the infrastructure has enabled the Trust to begin to build the foundations from which they can make a difference to children.”

Doncaster Children’s Services Trust was set up in October last year following an agreement between Doncaster Council and the Government. The Trust delivers children’s social care in Doncaster except for three areas retained by the local authority. These are: supporting children with a disability, providing in-school help to children in care and the Early Help service for families who need support but whose children are not at risk.