Clear Impact would like to extend a congratulatory word to the partnership of services working with children, young people and families across Leeds under the leadership of Deputy Leader of the Council and Executive Member for Children and Families Councillor Judith Blake and the Director of Children’s Services Nigel Richardson. Leeds has received a positive judgment as part of a regular inspection authorized by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted). Ofsted inspects and regulates services that care for children and young people, and services that provide education and skills for learners of all ages.

On March 27th, 2015, Ofsted inspectors published a report outlining the results of a recent inspection of Leed’s children’s services and the effectiveness of the Leeds Safeguarding Children Board. The overall judgment resulting from this inspection is that children’s services are “good” and that, in particular, “leadership, management, and governance” is “outstanding.” These are significant improvements from the previous inspections held in 2009 and 2010, which found that Leeds’s Children’s Services did not “adequately safeguard children.”

Leeds and Outcomes Based-Accountability in a nutshell:

As you may already know, Outcomes Based Accountability (OBA) is synonymous with Results-Based Accountability—the budgeting, performance management, and accountability framework created by Mark Friedman.

Leeds has taken a whole-system approach to improving services and OBA has been adopted, alongside restorative practice and the voice and influence of the child, as one of three fundamental ‘behaviors’ that underpin the citywide model for improving children’s services in Leeds. Each of these behaviors is a cornerstone of the city’s overarching vision and commitment to become a Child Friendly City — one of the best cities for children to play, learn and grow up in by 2030. OBA was adopted and disseminated by the new leadership in Leeds partly in response to a Government ‘Improvement Notice’ placed on the service in 2010 as a result of the previous unfavorable inspections. Since then, the partnership that maintains a city-wide oversight of performance – the Children and Families Trust Board, has been using OBA to monitor progress against 12 clear priority outcomes for children, detailed in the Children and Young People’s Plan (CYPP), launched in 2011. This consistency of vision, priorities and approach over a sustained period (5 years) has been recognized by the inspectors as a key reason for the improvements made, putting children and young people at the heart of the city’s growth strategy.

Leeds focuses on 3 main indicators to measure progress, referred to as the city’s three ‘obsessions’ (safely and appropriately reducing the number of children looked after, reducing the number of young people not in education, employment, or training, and improving school attendance), each of which are areas in which the city has historically struggled to make an impact, but is now showing evidence of ‘turning the curve’. Report cards are used frequently to report performance to the Children’s and Families Trust Board and other partners and a weekly performance tracker, the ‘thing of beauty’ (so called because of its simplicity and clarity in demonstrating week-on-week performance and patterns) is produced to demonstrate visually and on a single page how Leeds is performing on each of these ‘obsessions’. OBA has also been used for a variety of other projects in Leeds (custody pathfinder program, Families First initiative).

The Judgement:

Ofsted’s complete findings, including judgments, progress since the last inspection, and suggestions for improvement can be found here. Ofsted’s summary of findings as they are found in the report can be found below:

Leadrship and Management:

  • Children’s services in Leeds benefit from outstanding, inspirational and confident operational and political leadership. The ‘Child Friendly’ Leeds ambition has cross-party political support, reflected in ongoing investment in Children’s Services despite the challenging financial context.
  • The local authority has taken a thoughtful and methodical approach to improvement and has followed the child’s journey. Firm foundations underpin the effectiveness of services. Leeds has placed a considerable emphasis on creating an environment where good quality social work can flourish. Further work is now needed to ensure consistency and quality in practice across the city. Quality of practice

Quality of Practice:

  • There have been significant improvements in every part of the local authority’s arrangements for safeguarding children and young people. Risk and harm are responded to in a timely, assured and well-coordinated way. There are extensive early and targeted help services available to families at the first emergence of a problem, delivered by knowledgeable, confident and well-trained practitioners.
  • Assessments are informed by direct work with children, young people and their families, with good analysis of their circumstances. The authority and professionals across the city put children and young people at the heart of their work, and children are seen and spoken to as appropriate.
  • There is a robust and well-coordinated response to children who are missing and/or at risk of experiencing child sexual exploitation.
  • Decisions made to look after children and young people are appropriate. Robust assessments and innovative support methods with strong management oversight ensure that delay is avoided if children’s circumstances do not improve. Children and young people live in safe, stable and appropriate homes and have sustained relationships with social workers and carers who know them well.
  • Adoption as a permanency option is considered early for children where care proceedings are being initiated. The local authority has substantially reduced the number of children waiting to be adopted, with 112 children adopted in the last year.
  • Services for care leavers are good. Strong multi-agency partnerships have improved outcomes in education, employment and training. Care leavers have access to a wide range of suitable and supported accommodation and are well supported by tenacious staff.

 Download the full report here!

To learn more about Child Friendly Leeds, click here.