Wakefield Council children's services rated as 'good' by Ofsted following transformation

Wakefield's children's services have been rated as 'good' by Ofsted, in a drastic improvement from its performance four years ago.

The local authority was told it was leaving vulnerable children in its care at risk when the service was rated inadequate in 2018.

But now the regulator says standards have been completely transformed, following their latest full inspection of the department before Christmas.

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In its report, published on Wednesday, Ofsted said there had been "sustained improvement" to the quality of social work in Wakefield, from what it described as "an extremely low base" in 2018.

The report highlighted widespread improvements.

Inspectors said: "Services for children who need help and protection in Wakefield are good.

"The response to safeguarding concerns is robust and ensures that risks to children are identified and responded to in a timely way.

"As a result, children get the right level of help and protection when they need it."

A serious shortage of social workers and an over-reliance on agency staff had been one of Ofsted's most critical findings four years ago.

Ofsted said children in care in Wakefield now receive a "good" service.

High caseloads and poor morale had been endemic across the service.

Now however, Ofsted said there was "stability" within the department following investment in new staff, and workers are "without exception, very enthusiastic about working for Wakefield."

The regulator also graded the leadership of children's services as "outstanding" and said those in charge had worked "tirelessly to continually drive forward improvements."

It was noted that children in care have continued to receive frequent health and dental checks despite the challenges thrown up by the Covid pandemic.

The council welcomed the report.

Responding to Ofsted's verdict, council leader Denise Jeffery said: "The progress that we have made has truly been outstanding, and that is thanks to all our colleagues and partners whose passion, unstinting determination and commitment have made this very positive outcome possible.

"The report clearly acknowledges the significant changes and vast improvements that have been made across all children’s services, and most importantly highlights the positive impact that this is having on children and their families.

"Families have the commitment from my council and I, that we will continue to drive improvement, wherever possible, placing children and young people at the very heart of everything we do."

Months after Ofsted's 2018 report, the government decided to allow the council to keep control of its own children's services, rather than taking them over at a ministerial level, as has happened at other troubled local authorities.

The regulator did keep a close eye on the service however, and delivered several shorter reports on specific areas of the department.

Leaders of the service have also had to give monthly progress updates at the council's children and young people scrutiny committee in the years since.

Local Democracy Reporting Service