The findings of the recent re-inspection by Ofsted of children’s social care services have been published today.

The inspection was undertaken between 11 June and 5 July 2018 by a team of six inspectors. The inspectors focussed on reviewing direct work with children in need of help and protection; children looked after; adoption performance, and the experiences and progress of care leavers. They interviewed staff from Torbay Council and a number of partner agencies, including Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, Devon and Cornwall Police, Devon and Cornwall Probation Service, and the voluntary and community sector. Inspectors also interviewed elected members from Torbay Council as well as children, young people, carers and family members.

Inspectors concluded that overall, Torbay’s children’s services remains inadequate, and recognised key areas of improvement as set out below.

1. Children who need help and protection: Inadequate
2. Children looked after and achieving permanence: Requires improvement
   2.1 Adoption performance: Good
   2.2 Experiences and progress of care leavers: Requires improvement
3. Leadership, management and governance: Inadequate

Torbay Council has been judged inadequate since 2016 and, as a result, has been under the direction of the Secretary of State and a commissioner from Hampshire County Council appointed by the Department for Education. The focus of the commissioner was to advise on the fundamental structures and leadership that needs to be in place to enable Torbay to make and sustain improvement. As a result of the commissioner’s review and recommendations, Torbay and Plymouth Councils entered into a contractual arrangement with a joint Director of Children’s Services. The arrangement was established in April this year and the joint Director of Children’s Services, Alison Botham, took responsibility for Torbay on Friday 6 July 2018.

Alison Botham said: “We are disappointed with the judgement of this Ofsted inspection, but we acknowledge the issues identified that have impacted on the pace and consistency of improvements and outcomes for children. We are already implementing recommendations requiring immediate action, in order to address the significant weaknesses identified in key areas.

“I am pleased to see that the inspectors have recognised and highlighted areas of good work. These include the work our adoption team has been doing to provide a responsive service and good support to children who need permanent homes, and with prospective adopters. The service has moved from ‘Requires Improvement’ to a ‘Good’ rating. The inspectors also highlighted the strong and focussed work we have been doing in Early Help, which ensures our families are receiving appropriate support as soon as they enter our service.

“During this time of austerity, there have been a number of challenges, including a significant rise in the number of our Children Looked After. Providing placements for these children is very costly and has a big impact on the Council’s already restricted budget. However, councillors and senior officers continue to give political and financial support to Children’s Services, and this has been recognised by inspectors.

“As the new Director of Children’s Services I have a high expectation that we will keep children and young people at the heart of all our work, and that we will provide the right environment for all staff to deliver their best practice. I look forward to working with partners to address the issues identified in the report, so that we consistently work in ways that improve safeguards and outcomes for the children and young people we work with.

“The inspection was rightly challenging, thorough and rigorous. In addition to making clear recommendations for further action, the report also recognises improvements that have been made to date. I believe that the new arrangement provides a sound basis for a better pace of consistent and sustained improvement.”

Department for Education appointed Commissioner, John Coughlan, said: “This latest inspection judgement from Ofsted is obviously disappointing. I know that staff and managers have worked very hard over the past two years and it is regrettable that sufficient progress has not yet been made on behalf of vulnerable children in Torbay. Personally, I am convinced by the evidence that recent progress has been made in both management and practice and I am sure that children in Torbay are safer now than they were two years ago. But that is still not good enough and there is no question that all concerned must consider these inspection findings openly and with renewed commitment to further improvement.

“I am especially pleased that the formal partnership with Plymouth City Council is now in place. With Plymouth’s support and under Alison Botham’s leadership I believe the conditions are set for that improvement to accelerate, as it must. This will require the absolute determination and hard work of all concerned but I am confident it can be done.”

Torbay Council’s Executive Lead for Children and Housing, Councillor Cindy Stocks, said: “This judgement is unsatisfactory and we must make it a priority to deliver the necessary improvements as quickly as possible.

“The right foundations are in place, with the new arrangement with Plymouth. Improvements have been made and a revised improvement plan is being prepared. Now we need to focus on picking up the pace and making changes that lead to sustainable improvements that make a real difference to the lives of children.”

There are a number of key actions Torbay Council will now be focusing on.

These include:

  • Timely practice to assess need, plan and respond effectively when protective action is required.
  • Visiting children and young people we work with within required timescales.
  • Ensuring regular supervision and management oversight.
  • Reviewing all in house foster carers, undertaking health assessments, and providing the necessary training and support.
  • Stabilising the management and staffing arrangements.

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