No child left behind in pandemic

August 14, 2021

North Yorkshire’s most vulnerable children have been supported throughout the pandemic, according to Ofsted inspectors.

During a recent focused visit of North Yorkshire County Council’s children’s services, inspectors praised “highly confident senior leaders and managers” who have “ensured that children’s services have continued to develop positively since the last inspection”. The Ofsted inspectorate is currently looking into how England’s social care system has provided services and care for children and young people since the outbreak of Covid-19 in March 2020. The inspection in North Yorkshire looked at “front door” arrangements, where families come into contact with children’s services, including assessments and plans for child protection and children in need, referrals to services, support and other agencies. Inspectors looked at how the threshold for services and accommodation of children is applied, as well as decision-making and contact with families and children.

In its report, Ofsted said that despite the expected increase in the number of children being referred to local authorities due to the pandemic, vulnerable children in North Yorkshire were protected and supported. The report stated: “Despite Covid-19 and the resultant increase in the number of children being referred to children’s services, partnership work has flourished, the practice model is now fully embedded and vulnerable children received effective services from skilled and compassionate professionals that protect, helps and supports them. “Confident, skilled leaders and managers know their help and protection service very well and respond quickly and effectively to emerging issues, rise in demand or change in workforce patterns. They have created a service where social workers are supported to develop their initiative, be imaginative, and help families build safe networks to raise children.”

County councillor Janet Sanderson, North Yorkshire’s executive member for children and young people’s service said: “We place a high value on our deeply committed and effective workforce. “We are very pleased to receive recognition of this from Ofsted, but we will never become complacent in our work and strive to make a positive difference to the lives of our most vulnerable children, young people and their families.” In the last year, there have only been two incidents where emergency orders were needed for children and inspectors concluded that they were used appropriately in both cases. Inspectors praised in detail the work of North Yorkshire’s Multi-Agency Safeguarding Team (MAST), which safeguards vulnerable children and young people, with an additional focus on those being exploited, at-risk through domestic abuse or who go missing.

Ofsted stated: “MAST practice is of a high standard, where skilled managers and staff screen contacts and referrals and make appropriate decisions about next steps within a 24-hour timeframe.” Inspectors also said that child protection investigations are “comprehensive, recorded to the highest standards and are completed without any delay.” Children’s views are included and well detailed in child and family assessments: “Social workers take the views of children seriously and they inform the recommendations of assessments and the provision of further services.” Speaking about the report, the assistant director of children’s services, Martin Kelly, said: “North Yorkshire does a lot to keep children and young people within their families and communities. “More children in North Yorkshire stay within their family network, fewer children come into care and we put fewer families through the trauma of being taken through the court system. There’s a whole sense that we roll our sleeves up and work with, and alongside, families. “We make sure we walk in families’ shoes to really understand what it feels to be like in that family, their challenges, why they respond to challenges in those ways and then put the right help in place, building a framework of support for their children.”

Children take part in cooking workshops as part of children’s services. (05-08-60 SU)

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