Improving children's services

PUBLISHED: 10:08 18 December 2008 | UPDATED: 22:02 05 July 2010

SERVICES for hundreds of thousands of children and young people across East Anglia were last night given a “good” rating - while the number of English authorities branded inadequate doubled in a year.

SERVICES for hundreds of thousands of children and young people across East Anglia were last night given a “good” rating - while the number of English authorities branded inadequate doubled in a year.

In the wake of the scandal in Haringey where Baby P died following months of abuse while on the council's child protection register, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire's children's services departments were pleased to escape criticism.

But there were immediate calls for a nationwide overhaul of the system as Ofsted doubled the number of the 147 authorities rated inadequate, from four to eight, while those considered good or outstanding fell from 78pc to 73pc.

The number of councils found to be inadequate overall rose from none in 2007 to four this year.

Suffolk County Council was given a good rating across the board, and inspectors said: “Its strong leadership drives a clear determination to improve the lives of children and young people.”

Patricia O'Brien, portfolio holder for children, schools and young people's services, said: “This is a positive report which matches our own understanding of how well Suffolk children are supported and protected by council and other services in Suffolk.

“We are very far from complacent but we are confident that vulnerable children in Suffolk are well protected.”

Norfolk was rated good in six of the seven inspected annual performance assessment categories - being healthy; staying safe; making a positive contribution; achieving economic well-being and capacity to improve. It was judged adequate for enjoying and achieving.

The grades are an improvement on last year when children's services was judged adequate overall and good in three categories.

Inspectors said the council had “responded well” to recommendations made last year and “significant progress” had been made in relation to achieving economic well-being, particularly in terms of increasing education participation and success rates.

Lisa Christensen, director of children's services, said: “This report highlights the significant strides we are making in improving outcomes for Norfolk's children and young people.

“One of our key priorities is to raise educational attainment further and in the last year provisional results show we have made significant gains in the percentage of young people gaining five or more GCSEs at A* to C, including English and maths.

“Our 2008 GCSE results show we have risen above the national average for the first time and in the last few months we have also seen an improvement in the number of schools receiving good or outstanding judgements in their inspection - this gives us real hope for the future.”

Cambridgeshire County Council was given a good rating for all areas except “staying safe”, which was “adequate”.

Inspectors said: “The management of these services is good. Ambition is good. The children and young people's plan links well to national and local priorities. It is ambitious and challenging.”

Martin Curtis, cabinet member for children, said: “I am impressed by this report. It demonstrates the commitment and dedication of our staff in improving services for children and young people across Cambridgeshire. We were already aware of the areas for improvement, and they have either been addressed or work is underway.”

Ofsted is expected to say inspections will be more rigorous from next year, but critics remain concerned about how robust councils are, particularly in terms of child protection.

Barry Sheerman, chairman of the commons children and families select committee, said there should be an “immediate overhaul”, and added that the “comfortable view of inspections for schools” was inappropriate for child protection.

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