Children’s services in Birmingham showing improvement…mind you, it’s taken 10 years!
Hurray! It’s taken them A DECADE to finally set foot in the right direction, but for the first time in over ten years, children’s social care services in Birmingham have been judged as ‘requires improvement to be good’, following the publication of today’s Ofsted inspection result – it’s still not great, but they’re getting there.
As well as being the overall outcome, all areas of the inspection were also judged as ‘requires improvement to be good’.
This is the first time for over a decade that children’s services in the city have no longer been judged as inadequate, and the real progress is in line with continued improvements made during monitoring visits that have regularly taken place since 2016.
In April 2018 Birmingham City Council delegated responsibility for children’s social care services to Birmingham Children’s Trust, led by chair of the board Andrew Christie and chief executive Andy Couldrick.
Andrew Christie, chair of Birmingham Children’s Trust, said:
“When the Children’s Trust began life in April 2018, we were determined to inject pace into the improvement of children’s social care services in Birmingham. This inspection indicates we are making the necessary progress but that we have much more still to do.
“We now have a stable workforce, with low rates of agency social workers, lower turnover, more social workers joining us and fewer leaving the Trust, and as the inspection notes our staff know their children well and go the extra mile.
“Working with the city council and with the other agencies in the city, we are no less determined to make further progress and deliver good children’s services. We are so fortunate to benefit from the dedication and skill of all those working in the Trust, ably led by Andy Couldrick and his senior team. I would also want to pay tribute to Alastair Gibbons, recently retired Director, who provided the leadership we needed to start the improvement work.”
Councillor Kate Booth, Cabinet Member for Children’s Wellbeing at Birmingham City Council, said:
“I am very pleased that Ofsted have recognised the continued progress made by the council and the Children’s Trust in delivering improving services for vulnerable children in the city.
“I want to pay tribute to Councillor Brigid Jones who led the service and drove improvement for many years. We know what we need to focus on to build on this improved position, and we are confident that together the Council and the Children’s Trust will maintain progress and deliver children’s services that are consistently good. I am grateful to the social workers, family support workers and managers whose commitment has made this progress possible.”
In the letter published today, Pauline Higham, Her Majesty’s Lead Inspector, said that the delegation of statutory children’s social care functions to Birmingham Children’s Trust has ‘enabled the re-vitalisation of both practice and working culture’, adding ‘as a result, progress has been made in improving the experiences and progress of children’.
The summary report highlighted other positive developments, including:
• Birmingham Children’s Trust, the local authority, leaders and staff know themselves well and are building on progress to date in order to achieve lasting change. They have shown a dogged determination to ensure a focus on the well-being, safety and improving outcomes of children in Birmingham.
• The voice of the children in care is given high priority and is consistently well considered by social workers. Children are seen regularly and are seen alone by their social workers, including those children placed out of the Birmingham area. This means that children are able to develop meaningful and trusting relationships with their social workers.
• Homeless young people who are 16 and 17 years old receive swift and well-targeted support that includes a wide range of suitable accommodation options. This is supported by effective
assessments and often tenacious and skilful work to engage young people.
• The voice of the child is often well represented across the Trust and in social work records and reports. Children in Care Council (CICC) and Care Leavers’ Forum (CLF) are dynamic and active, reporting positively about what they see as better engagement with them by Birmingham Children’s Trust. This includes the visibility of senior managers, their ability to be actively engaged in the appointment of senior staff and the opportunity to discuss issues that are important to them.
• Effective support is provided for the growing number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. This support helps them to settle quickly into education and reduces their barriers to learning.
• The guidance in place for care leavers is strong and helps them to achieve their aims and next steps in education, employment or training.
• Children are actively encouraged to participate in their reviews. Most young people reported positively on the availability of independent reviewing officers (IRO) and described sustained
and positive relationships with them.
Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi said:
“Protecting vulnerable children and keeping them safe from harm is paramount. For too long, these children and their families in Birmingham were let down by the authorities in charge of protecting them, so I am pleased to see the progress being made. It’s a significant milestone for the council and the Trust, and the first step in what I hope will be a sustained period of improvements.
“This Government will not hesitate to intervene where children are being let down, but today’s report is down to strong leadership and the hard work of staff at the Trust and council. It is part of Ofsted’s job to suggest ways in which they can make further improvements, all of which will be looked at so that Birmingham can continue to deliver for every child.”
Birmingham children’s services timeline
2008 Children’s Services annual performance assessment judged Birmingham inadequate at helping children and young people stay safe. Twelve month improvement notice issued.
2009 Ofsted judged that while improvements had been made, further improvements were needed.
2010 Ofsted report of Safeguarding and Looked-After Children published, judging both overall effectiveness and capacity for improvement as inadequate. Revised improvement notice issued.
2012 (October) Ofsted report on Local Authority Arrangements for the Protection of Children published.
2013 Council issued with a Statutory Direction to improve in March. Performance monitoring board established chaired by Sir Albert Bore.
2013 (December) Peter Hay appointed Director for People.
2013 Letter from children’s minister Edward Timpson to Sir Albert stating plan for in-depth review of service.
2014 BCC publishes LGA Peer Review into Birmingham children’s services, which was commissioned by the council.
2014 (March) Le Grand Review into Birmingham children’s services published; Department for Education appoints Lord Norman Warner as commissioner to oversee improvement
2016 (May) Birmingham City Council announced its intention, as part of the children’s services improvement journey, to explore a trust model
2016 (November) Ofsted full inspection finds overall judgement is inadequate, but with sections around looked after children judged as requiring improvement
2017 (January) Cabinet approved the creation of the Birmingham Children’s Trust to provide children’s social care and related support services (via a commissioned relationship with the council) under a service delivery contract
2017 (May) Ofsted monitoring visit finds children’s services is making ‘steady progress’
2017 (September) Ofsted monitoring visit finds children’s services is making ‘continued progress’
2017 (December) Ofsted monitoring visit finds children’s services is making ‘continued progress’ with the quality of social work improving
2018 (March) Ofsted monitoring visit finds children’s services is maintaining progress, with ‘further improvement evident in specific service areas’
2018 (April) Birmingham Children’s Trust launches
2018 (May) Ofsted monitoring visit finds Birmingham Children’s Trust has ‘made further progress in improving the quality of its services for young people leaving care’
2018 (August) Ofsted monitoring visit finds ‘there has been some progress since the last inspection of services for children subject to children in need or child protection plans’