Kent County Council’s (KCC) children’s services have been rated “outstanding” by Ofsted following an inspection in May, making Kent one of the best-performing councils in the country.
The Ofsted report, published today (Tuesday 5 July), records the top score in three of the four categories and “good” in the fourth, with the overall effectiveness in providing children’s services as “outstanding”.
Ofsted found that children are at the centre of KCC’s culture and practice, where they are supported and cared for by an experienced and skilled workforce who listen and respond to their views and feelings.
Inspectors found that when families need help with the care of their children, or if there are concerns about the safety of a child, they get a swift response and good help and support from children’s social care services. They also commended staff on the way they worked with family members and friends to help them support children and young people to stay with their own families.
Workers from the early help and social work teams were praised for the time they spend in getting to know the children and young people they work with and for trying to understand the difficulties they and their parents are facing to come up with a good plan to support them.
Ofsted praised the “outstanding practice” for children in care and young people leaving care, who “clearly benefit from the support they receive and make good progress”.
It recognised that Kent children’s services have faced considerable additional pressures brought by the pandemic, rising caseloads and needing to care for and protect the “unparalleled numbers” of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children arriving in the county. The report states that “senior leaders and frontline staff have responded well to these exceptional circumstances” and praised KCC for continuing to improve children’s services during the pandemic.
Ofsted also reported that all staff they spoke to were “rightly proud of the work they do and proud of the progress they make with children and families to improve their situations”, and “love working for Kent”.
Ofsted praised KCC’s political leadership for their commitment to championing and protecting children, which is backed by “sound financial investment”. They commented that “the director of children’s services and his senior management team, the lead member for children’s services and the head of paid service keep themselves well appraised of key challenges and service issues, exercising appropriate oversight and scrutiny.”
They went on to say that the council “promotes corporate problem-solving and shared responsibility for its services”.
KCC Leader Roger Gough said: “The Ofsted rating of our children’s services is one of the most significant judgements on us as an organisation and it is a fantastic achievement for the children and young people we protect, care for and support. The rating is recognition of the dedication and commitment demonstrated by our staff from across children’s services.
“Despite the huge challenges of the pandemic and those that we still face with rising demand and from the unprecedented numbers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and young people arriving in the county needing our help, our staff and senior leaders are providing outstanding services.
“It’s also incredibly positive that the impact of our whole system has been recognised, highlighting our shared responsibility and corporate problem-solving and leadership, so all departments and sectors are working together to provide the best services to children.”
KCC’s Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s Services, Sue Chandler, said: “Protecting vulnerable children and families from harm and supporting them to live safe and fulfilled lives is one of our most important roles, so I am delighted that Ofsted has rated our children’s services as outstanding.
“During the inspection, parents shared their views on our services with inspectors and it is wonderful to hear that they were unanimously positive about the way they work with staff and the support they receive. Ofsted’s findings are great news for everyone receiving and providing care and support.”
KCC’s Interim Corporate Director of Children, Young People and Education, Sarah Hammond, said: “I am incredibly proud that our children’s services have been rated as outstanding. It reflects the positive difference our staff make every day to the lives of children, young people and their families, as well as their dedication and commitment to providing the best possible standard of service.
“This is a fantastic result, but our work does not stop here. We will continue to make further improvements to our services and professional practice so that we continue to deliver outstanding services for our children, young people and their families.”
Ofsted’s National Director for Regulation and Social Care, Yvette Stanley, said: “Today’s report highlights how children are at the centre of KCC’s culture and practice. I was particularly pleased to read that more children are benefiting from KCC’s services, which are of a consistently good standard, resulting in positive outcomes for both them and their families.
“This judgement is a significant achievement and testament to the hard work and tenacity of KCC’s leadership team, managers and frontline staff, the wider council and safeguarding partners.”
Ofsted inspectors visited Kent’s children’s services in May this year. They scored KCC’s children’s services against four judgements:
- The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families – Outstanding
- The experiences and progress of children who need help and protection – Good
- The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers – Outstanding
- Overall effectiveness – Outstanding
The Ofsted report also found that senior leaders took effective action in the areas identified at the last inspection in 2017, with progress “evident in all the areas identified for improvement”. The report also stated that senior leaders “have also taken the required steps to make improvements in the areas identified at the focused visit in 2019, strengthening the responses to children at the ‘front door’ of their services and ensuring children are quickly directed to the most appropriate services”.
Read the full Ofsted report here.