Ofsted praises Leicestershire County Council’s children’s services after showing improvements since 2019 inspection

One child said a social worker had saved her life without knowing it
The county council's children's services have been praised by Ofsted inspectors.The county council's children's services have been praised by Ofsted inspectors.
The county council's children's services have been praised by Ofsted inspectors.

Leicestershire County Council’s children’s services have been praised by Ofsted inspectors after a previous report said they required improvement.

The education watchdog made an inspection of the services in May following a less positive report in 2019. Ofsted highlighted, at the time, concerns including a small number of children who had been left in harmful situations for too long and care plans which were not always focused on the specific needs of the child.

At the most recent visit, inspectors said: “Social work practice with children in care, including those with a disability, is consistently child-focused. This impacts positively on their life experiences and their physical and emotional well-being.”

They also described how social workers know the children well and speak with pride and affection about them while records of their visits were described as ‘beautifully written’ by the inspectors.

Inspectors also collected comments from the children supported by the services. Accounts included one who said their social worker had ‘saved her life several times without knowing it’ while another said their social worker had helped them grow from feeling like they had no skills to now successfully living independently.

Care plans, previously described by inspectors as being long and difficult for children to understand, are reportedly much clearer and most children in care are in stable and secure foster placements that meet their needs to a high standard. However, a minority of disabled children with complex needs live in placements further away from their families than leaders, children and families would like, the report added.

Some children are also living in unregistered placements, which is illegal. While more suitable permanent placements are being identified or, while unregistered placements are seeking registration, leaders maintain strong oversight of each child’s circumstances, the inspectors said.

Concerns over the limited availability of short-break provision was also raised by the inspection team although ambitious and realistic plans are well under way to address the issue.

Ofsted also praised the council’s ambition to keep children within their families as much as possible. For those who cannot stay with family members, long-term fostering is pursued to achieve a sense of belonging. There are still some children waiting too long for a long-term placement, causing uncertainty around their futures which but inspectors acknowledged leaders are fully aware of this and taking steps to address it.

Social workers spoken to, reported having manageable caseloads, enabling them to spend time with children. Inspectors also complimented the strong support within the county council and senior leadership team, which ‘remains resolute in its commitment to improve the lives of children in Leicestershire’.

Cllr Deborah Taylor, lead member for children and family services, said: “This is a fantastic result that highlights the continual hard work that’s taking place within our children’s services teams, and in particular the services and support we provide for those children in the care of the local authority, and it’s great that Ofsted have recognised this.

“Our ultimate priority is the safety and wellbeing of our county’s children and young people, and this report shows how incredibly committed our social workers and senior leaders are at achieving this objective, and placing children and young people at the heart of everything they do.”