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Ofsted report expected to show vast improvement in Plymouth children's services

Plymouth City Council offices. Image courtesy: Google Street View

Leaders say it could be "on the cusp of outstanding" in three years

A report by education watchdog inspectors due in two weeks’ time is expected to show a vast improvement in Plymouth’s children's services.

In December 2022 Ofsted told the city council of its “serious and widespread systemic failings” in its children’s services that were leaving children “at risk of significant harm.”

Cabinet member for children’s service Cllr Jemima Laing (Lab, Stoke) told the council’s education and children’s social care overview and scrutiny committee the city is now “in a different place.”

The workforce has stabilised and leadership improved, she said, and recruitment and retention of staff had resulted in more manageable caseloads. Morale is also much better.

“There has been a significant shift from the monitoring report back in December 2022 and we are in a very different place,” she said. “It’s not a matter of firefighting, but putting in firm foundations and being able to show that that improvement work is sustainable.”

Following a six-month stabilisation phase, the council is moving into a three year plan to “develop and embed improvements” with officers expecting the service to be “on the cusp of outstanding” by 2027.

More families receive early intervention help and the needs of vulnerable children being addressed more quickly. One of the criticisms in the Ofsted report is that help and protection at the front door had declined, causing escalating needs and more children coming into care.

Assessment times and supervision have improved and re-referrals have returned to acceptable levels.

The number of children on a child protection plan for more than 12 months halved from September last year.

Cllr Laing praised the children’s services team which has "shown passion, drive and commitment" during the latest Ofsted inspection which lasted three weeks. The report will be published on Friday 15 March.

“The team are showing that they are making a difference to children’s lives,” she said. “I can’t say much ahead of the report coming out but Ofsted felt we know ourselves and have entered this process in a very open fashion.

“Our commitment to early help is really strong now and it will be a main focus in the new phase of this plan.”

Councillors were told that the city’s family hubs would be a key part of the “right help at the right time “ children's services strategy.

The city council is allocating an extra £12 million for children’s services in the budget for 2024/25 to avoid another overspend.

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