DONCASTER Council’s scandal-hit children’s services have finally been judged adequate - two years after concerned ministers took control of the department.
The overall effectiveness for safeguarding youngsters in the borough has been judged as adequate in an inspection published by Ofsted today.
Inspectors said the council now meets its statutory requirements for the management of safeguarding and services for children in care.
The council said the report reflects significant progress over the last year after a considerable period of poor performance and inadequate management which led to Government intervention in 2009.
Ministers stepped in after a series of eight serious case reviews into the deaths of children who had been known to the department, within just a few years of one another.
Further concerns were raised after two young brothers in council care tortured two other young boys in Edlington. They were later locked up for causing GBH with intent, in a case which shocked the nation.
Doncaster Council’s Director of the Children and Young People’s Service Chris Pratt said: “The findings and overall judgment of the inspection represent a significant milestone in our ongoing journey of improvement.
“Whilst it is right the inspection has acknowledged where we have come from and highlighted our good direction of travel, we are acutely aware there is still a long way to go.
“Adequate is a far, far better judgement than the inadequate ones we have had previously, but not good enough for the children and young people of Doncaster and we are determined to continue to improve our services so that they become amongst the best in the country.
“There are several recommendations in the report for developing better services and we have started to implement these with vigour. Furthermore, we will continue to drive forward our improvement programme in order to bring about further sustained progress in the months ahead.”
Mr Pratt said there had been a 35 per cent increase in child protection plans in the last 18 months as more cases were being reported. He said it meant the authorities now knew where concerns were.
He added the cases were now being assessed quicker, with over 90 per cent now assessed within seven days, a figure which had risen from 25 per cent.
Mr Pratt said: “In terms of being aware of children at risk and doing something quickly, we are far better than 12 to 18 months ago. There have not been any new serious case reviews over that period, although all authorities will review cases from time to time to see what can be learned.”
NHS Doncaster Chief Executive Annette Laban said the town’s NHS organisations have played a key role in helping achieve local improvements.
She said: “We welcome the report findings that progress has been made across children services and within the partnership.
“The health partners have contributed to the overall assessment and have had key influence on the progress noted in the report finding.”
“We acknowledge that more needs to be done specifically in relation to improving health outcomes for children in care. Some immediate action has already taken place.
“We have made improvements to the initial health assessment for children in care and this assessment is now integrated into the overall care plan for each child.
“This will mean for children in care that their health needs are understood by the relevant health professional and that an individual plan is in place to meet their needs.
“A plan for improvement across all health services is being developed to meet the other recommendations within the report. This will contribute to the improvement plan developed as an overall response to this report.
“Health partners are committed to working as a strong supportive partner to improve outcomes for children in Doncaster.”