NORTH Yorkshire’s children’s services have been rated as among the top in the country by Ofsted for its care and protection of children.
North Yorkshire County Council has been praised for putting the needs of children first and keeping them safe by the inspection agency.
Its children’s services were graded as “good” in every category and highly praised for its effectiveness.
Inspectors praised a change of culture in North Yorkshire under a “new and experienced” director of children’s service and senior leadership team, which they said has led to improvements in the quality of services and outcomes for children and young people.
In March this year, there were 3,421 children identified through assessment as being formally in need of specialist children’s services for child protection, down from 3,679 the previous year.
North Yorkshire also has 465 children in care, a decrease from 489 the previous year.
At a time when many local authority children’s services are under intense scrutiny for letting some at-risk children slip through the net, Ofsted commended North Yorkshire for its early help for children. Its report described children who are at risk of harm being “identified, supported and protected well”.
The good report comes as councils are facing unprecedented cuts to their budgets.
Since 2011 the county council has implemented and planned for cuts of about £170m – savings which amount to a reduction of about one third of the council’s spending power.
“It also reflects on how well this council is maintaining important and frontline services throughout a difficult period of austerity,” said Richard Flinton, North Yorkshire’s chief executive
“The work to protect children cannot be compromised.”
The inspection showed that the council had few social worker vacancies and so do not resort to employing agency staff. As a result, most children had positive and stable relationships with their social workers who knew them and their families.
The council’s adoption services also came in for praise; being judged as good with some outstanding examples of individual work. Adoption was also found to be considered at the earliest stage for children if a return to their family would be unsafe or not meet their needs.
The county council’s six children’s homes were also all judged to be good or outstanding. It found the majority of young people leaving care attended local further education colleges, other education, training or university. They were given independent advice, guidance, financial support and on-going pastoral care. There are currently 23 young people who have left care and are being “well-supported” through university.
Ofsted recognised how elected members “show a strong sense of corporate parenting responsibility with a clear understanding of the looked-after children population”.