The latest Ofsted visit to Together for Children, the company formed to take over the management of children’s services in Sunderland, has reported ongoing improvements.
The Ofsted inspectors, who visited the company in January, reported that Together for Children is “making steady progress in improving services when problems first emerge for children, young people and their families”.
The latest visit was Ofsted’s third to Together for Children since it came into operation in April 2017, and the sixth to Sunderland since services were judged to be inadequate in July 2015.
Ofsted inspectors focussed their visit on Together for Children’s Early Help service. The service, which was launched in April 2017 when the new company came into being, aims to help children, young people and their families at the earliest point of need, offering support before any problems escalate.
The Early Help team offers parenting support on issues such as behaviour, problems at school, routines and setting boundaries, as well as offering advice to young people and their families on issues including youth offending and difficulties with alcohol or drugs.
In their follow up letter Ofsted inspectors said the Early Help service is: “already demonstrating a significant increase in the take up of early help services, from 252 open cases in April 2017 to 646 open cases in December 2017”.
Going on to note that: “Together for Children is working effectively with other agencies to manage the early help response and to further develop information sharing.”
During the visit inspectors scrutinised records, data and audits, as well as conducting interviews with Early Help staff, social workers and managers.
Meetings were also held with the chair and manager of the Sunderland Safeguarding Children Board, an independent statutory body that brings together partner agencies in Sunderland to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
Deborah Jenkins, chair of the Together for Children board, said: “We welcome the findings of Ofsted’s most recent monitoring visit. Our Early Help service has made huge strides since launching in April, providing a vital system of support for Sunderland children and families at the time they need it.
“While often the focus of Ofsted visits is on the social care services we provide, the benefit of our Early Help service cannot be underestimated. By working closely with children and families in the very early stages, when problems first emerge, our dedicated staff can help ensure that difficulties are resolved before they escalate and before a need for social care involvement.
“I’m extremely pleased to see our progress recognised and would like to thank staff across the company for their ongoing efforts to ensure that the organisation is taking steady strides in the right direction.”
Councillor Louise Farthing, Portfolio Holder for Children's Services, said: “Everyone at Together for Children and the Council is firmly committed to continuing our improvement and I’m pleased to see that Ofsted inspectors have again recognised that positive progress continues to be made by the company as we approach the culmination of its first year in operation.
“The feedback from Ofsted’s latest monitoring visit is extremely encouraging and the increased take up of the Early Help services on offer demonstrates that the company is providing the right support where it is needed. This latest report is another indicator that we are on the right track to restore our services to the level the children and young people of Sunderland deserve.”