Ofsted: Leadership, not funding, to blame for failing children’s services in Doncaster

Sir Michael Wilshaw

Sir Michael Wilshaw

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Problems with care in ‘inadequate’ children’s services departments such as Doncaster’s are down to leadership, a new Ofsted report has found.

According to the watchdog’s national social care report, which highlights Doncaster’s failing children’s services, quality of leadership – and not lack of funding – is to blame for problems.

The latest report cites weak leadership and too-high caseloads as reasons why some local authorities are failing to care for vulnerable children, with child protection performing particularly poorly.

Children’s services in Doncaster, which are now run by the independent Doncaster Children’s Services Trust, were judged to be ‘inadequate’ during an inspection last year.

The trust was set up in 2014 after the local authority was stripped of its children’s services in 2013 due to the Government deeming them to have a ‘legacy of failure’.

Last year’s inspection report by Ofsted stated that improvements in the department were ‘evident’ since the formation of the trust.

Inspectors rated the Trust’s leadership, management and governance as ‘requiring improvement’.

But the report said: “Senior leaders understand the service and improvement plans focus on the right areas to build sustainable improvement.”

The department also received an ‘inadequate’ rating in 2013, prior to it being taken out of local authority control.

Mark Douglas, Chief Operating Officer of Doncaster Children’s Services Trust, said: “We welcome Ofsted’s focus on the importance of strong leadership in children’s social care.

“We are particularly pleased that when Ofsted inspected children’s social care services in Doncaster in November last year it reported significant improvements across all areas of the Trust and in particular in the area of leadership and management.

“We accept that there is further work to do to improve the quality of all of our services to move out of the ‘inadequate’ rating, and we are making strong progress against our action plan to achieve this outcome.

“This includes stabilising our workforce, reducing the number of cases social workers hold, and consulting children and care leavers to make sure we are fully meeting their needs.”

“We are confident that the Trust will continue to make sustained improvements in order to achieve an Ofsted ‘good’ rating for all services by October 2017.”

A quarter of the 87 authorities inspected under a new, more rigorous, regime were judged inadequate.

Ofsted’s chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw said: “This report shows that the context of a local authority, including size, deprivation and funding, cannot be used as an excuse for poor performance.

“If some authorities can succeed in difficult circumstances, so can others.”