North Yorkshire is first in social care for “outstanding” Ofsted in all areas

This story was published 6 August 2018

Children and families in North Yorkshire receive outstanding support across the board, according to Ofsted after inspecting the County Council’s children’s social care services.

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North Yorkshire is the first and only authority nationally to have received an ‘outstanding’ grade in every category under a new and challenging social care inspection framework which focuses on the effectiveness of frontline practice.

Children and families receive a consistent, high-quality service with outstanding practice in all teams, inspectors state.  This “has a demonstrable positive impact on effecting change”.

In their report published today (August 6th) inspectors praise as “ambitious and forward thinking” the children and families leadership team as well as the lead member and county council’s chief executive.  They have “a clear over-sight of practice and know the services well”.

North Yorkshire is a learning organisation which responds effectively to areas for development with innovative projects which have a tangible, positive impact on the lives of young people, Ofsted states.

Leadership is also praised for being responsive to change with plans in place for further developments “to ensure that improvements are maintained”. 

Well-established multi-agency partnerships ensure families receive help in a timely way.  Work is child-centred with a long-standing, “clearly embedded” model of practice based on effective relationships with children and families.

Ofsted describes the local authority as “a committed and effective corporate parent” that enables children and young people in care and on the edge of care to remain close to their home and local community. 

Almost 100 per cent of North Yorkshire’s children in foster care are placed within the county.

Yvette Stanley, Ofsted national director for social care, wrote to the County Council’s Director of Children and Young People’s Service, Stuart Carlton, to say: “This is a magnificent achievement and one which I wanted to particularly acknowledge today as this is the first time that Ofsted has awarded outstanding judgements across the board under the new inspection of local authority children's services framework. This outcome is therefore an important milestone not just for North Yorkshire, but for the social care and wider children’s services sector, too. 

“Your ‘outstanding’ inspection outcome reflects the hard work and tenacity of yourself, your leadership team, managers and frontline staff, as well as the wider council and your safeguarding partners. You should all be proud of the positive difference you have made for the children and families of North Yorkshire. 

“I know that this outcome will not diminish your ambition for or culture of embracing improvement in services and outcomes for children and, extend my very best wishes for the next phases of your continuous improvement journey.”

Minister for Children and Families Nadhim Zahawi said: “This is fantastic news for North Yorkshire. The dedicated children’s social care team should feel immensely proud of the outstanding care, support and services they provide for some of the most vulnerable children in the area. We want every child to have the best start in life, whether they have special educational needs, whether they are in care, or come from a troubled home, we want them to have the right support and stability to flourish. I hope to see these ambitious and forward thinking approaches seen at the county council replicated across the country.”

Isabelle Trowler, England’s Chief Social Worker for Children and Families, says North Yorkshire is now well placed to influence the rest of the country in national reform. She said: “The very warmest congratulations to everyone involved in North Yorkshire becoming the first in England to be outstanding in its provision of all children's social care services. 

“For the last four years I have watched this authority move from strength to strength. Determination, ethical and effective practice, high ambition for change, energy and wisdom, from practitioners to senior leaders, has led to this result. 

“North Yorkshire is now set to heavily influence the rest of the country in national reform of Children's Social Care and I look forward, very much, to our continued partnership.”  

“We are hugely proud that Ofsted has recognised our outstanding practice,” said County Councillor Janet Sanderson, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Children and Families.  “During their visit inspectors described our work as ‘gold dust’ and we place a high value on our deeply committed and effective workforce. 

“The quality of practice matters to us and there is a relentless focus on building relationships with families and supporting them to change. 

“Children and young people at high risk are well supported.  We are passionate that whenever possible they should stay within their families and extended networks, taking them into care only when absolutely necessary.

“North Yorkshire has been appointed by the Department for Education as a Partner in Practice, supporting and enabling improvement in other local authorities, and we are known nationally for our innovation and drive in making a positive difference to the lives of our most vulnerable children, young people and their families.”

North Yorkshire is commended in the inspection report for maintaining a stable social care workforce and an environment and culture in which “staff at all levels are confident in their practice and ability to meet the needs of children and families”.

“At the heart of the North Yorkshire approach is a belief that stable relationships with workers who know their children and families extremely well is the key to creating and sustaining positive change,” inspectors state.

Further information

A number of background briefings and case studies can be viewed below. You can read the inspection report on the Ofsted website.

View background briefings and case studies

Ofsted has judged that North Yorkshire is outstanding in all areas of its children’s social care services:

  • the impact of leadership on social work practice; 
  • the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection; 
  • the experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers.

Read more below, or jump to further information on our Ofsted judgement by topic.

This accolade follows eight years of transformation and change for the authority.  Over this time North Yorkshire has built a national reputation for social work practice and has been appointed as one of 15 authorities to be a Partner in Practice by the Department for Education. 

Through this role North Yorkshire is enjoying new opportunities to work with other councils, sending its staff to work alongside local leaders to embed good practice and complement existing sector-led improvement capacity as a result. The County Council can as a result consolidate its own learning and access the learning of others

The council has recognised that for social work practice to flourish it needs to be deployed within a culturally ambitious, wider children’s services system, with great engagement of schools and partners and a raft of accessible, responsive prevention services. It takes time, tenacity, great people and high levels of ambition. 

It also helps when the chief executive and wider council management board understand the importance of the children’s agenda. Despite a multi-million pound savings programme, North Yorkshire has continued to invest in frontline services and new social work teams and roles, including the employment of more senior professionals to support newly qualified staff. 

It’s also about opportunities for training and development; having the right kind of IT and flexible working so social workers and prevention staff can spend more time on the ground; access to additional support services; and continuity within teams and about staff being genuinely respected and valued. 

As a result of this good practice, the number of looked-after children has fallen by approximately 15% in North Yorkshire over the past six years, in contrast to national trends. The same period has seen significant improvements in a wide range of other outcomes for all children with, for example, 10,000 more children now attending good or outstanding schools. A recent Local Government Association peer review described outcomes achieved for vulnerable children as genuinely inspiring.  

It’s about investing in the right kind of services to bring about the right changes. We have integrated services and developed new ones to reduce the numbers of children and young people going through more costly systems. This has already saved the County Council close to £5 million.

The whole council and wider workforce is involved in supporting children in the care system – it’s everybody’s business.  The County Council encourages staff to become foster carers and adoptive parents and provide additional leave for preparation and planning.  As the corporate parent for children in care the County Council guarantees all care leavers work experience and an apprenticeship post in the council if they want one.

The County Council also takes every opportunity to celebrate good practice through its own innovation awards and receives outside recognition: 

  • North Yorkshire’s innovative multi-agency screening team was winner of the partnership category in the LGC Awards 2017. The team, which brings together staff from the council’s children’s social care and prevention services, North Yorkshire Police and health, screens every case received within 24 hours of contact being made, reviewing the dangers and strengths within a family or wider community.  It means that any concerns or referrals regarding children, be they from individuals, schools, GPs, health providers, police or social care, will have one point of contact;
  • This year No Wrong Door, received the prize for Impact and Learning in Children’s Services at the annual MJ Awards, organised by the MJ, or Municipal Journal, a publication for UK local authorities. It has also won the national award for Innovation in Local Government and the Department for Education said it should inform national policy and practice. No Wrong Door radically rethinks care provision for young people.  It replaces traditional council-run care homes with hubs which combine residential care and fostering with on-site support from clinical psychologists who act as life coaches, from speech and language therapists and a supportive police role. The service has proved highly effective in breaking the traditional cycle of young people who enter care in their teenage years following a path of multiple fostering placements, insufficiently planned periods in residential care and placement breakdown and  who go on to engage in offending and risk-taking behaviour.
  • North Yorkshire was named social work employer of the year four years ago.