Celebrating ‘Good’ news for children’s services in Birmingham
it's very 'Good' news for children's services in Birmingham...
Significant progress in improving the experiences and outcomes of children has resulted in Birmingham children’s services being given a ‘Good’ grade by Ofsted, following a 2023 inspection.
Children’s services in Birmingham are managed by Birmingham Children’s Trust and Birmingham City Council. Birmingham Children’s Trust was set up in 2018 by Birmingham City Council to create the conditions that enabled good social work and family support to flourish.
Prior to that children’s social care services in Birmingham had been graded ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted since 2010 and had been failing for longer. Government intervention, along with the appointment of a series of commissioners, reflected the national concern for these services. The City Council took the decision to deliver its social care services through a Trust in January 2017. The appointments of Andrew Christie as Chair and Andy Couldrick as Chief Executive followed. A new board of executive directors and independent non-executive directors was recruited, bringing a real depth of knowledge and experience as well as commitment. Through 2017 and early 2018 monitoring reports found continued and steady progress, with the Trust launching in April 2018.
In 2023 all five areas inspected were given a ‘Good’ grading, with many positive highlights focusing on areas including the quality of staff leadership, partnership working, safeguarding and corporate parenting.
The 2023 Ofsted report stated: “Since the last inspection in 2018, much progress has been made by Birmingham City Council and Birmingham Children’s Trust in improving the experiences and outcomes of their children. Children are now safeguarded through effective ‘front door’ arrangements, thorough child protection assessments and a strong response to safeguarding children at risk of exploitation.”
Andrew Christie, Birmingham Children’s Trust Chair, said: “We are all delighted that today’s Ofsted report confirms the progress we have made, and the quality of practice provided by our fantastic team. We know there is more to do, but the improvements are evident. Our work throughout has been shaped by the voices of children and young people in Birmingham.
“We have worked incredibly hard to ensure that partnership working with Birmingham City Council, statutory and non-statutory partners has become one of our strengths, and i am so pleased that Ofsted acknowledge this as a major improvement.
“The Trust is here to improve the outcomes for children, young people, and families, so to be told by Ofsted that ‘children in care and care-experienced young people are genuinely listened to and actively engaged in recruitment, staff training and service development’ is testament to the way our staff meaningfully engage with children in care and care experienced young people.”
Councillor Brigid Jones, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “It is tremendous news to know that the devotion and dedication of staff in the city council, partners and Birmingham Children’s Trust has been rewarded with a ‘Good’ grade by Ofsted inspectors.
“The city of Birmingham faces challenges on a bigger scale than most, supporting some of the country’s most vulnerable children, young people and families. This has been a long journey with a tremendous amount of work from so many people and it is an historic moment seeing their efforts recognised.
“To everyone who has been a part of that journey: thank you.”
Councillor Karen McCarthy, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families, said: “I am really pleased with our recent Ofsted Inspection on our children’s services. It is a good read and I am pleased that Ofsted found that our children, young people and families that need help the most are getting the right support and appropriate children’s social care services to meet their needs.
“Working together with Birmingham Children’s Trust and our partner agencies we are continuing to improve in all areas of service. We have a way to go but we are providing better outcomes for all our children, including those in our care, our unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and our care-experienced young people.”
Sue Harrison, Director of Children’s Services at Birmingham City Council, said: "I'm really pleased to see Ofsted acknowledging the great and improved partnership work between the council and the trust and the positive impact this has had on families, particularly around our early help strategy. The report also notes the priority given to children in Birmingham by political leaders. Working together the trust and council are making a real difference to children's lives and we will be relentless in ensuring these improvements are sustainable."
What Ofsted said about Birmingham children’s services:
On the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families:
- ‘The Trust has made strong progress in most areas which required improvement at the last inspection, and pace has been sustained through the pandemic and beyond. Political leaders give great priority to children in Birmingham. Despite the financial pressures the council faces, investment in strengthening services in response to increased demand is a continuing commitment.’
- ‘There has been a positive shift in the quality and impact of partnership working between the council and the Trust, along with other key strategic allies. This is particularly evident in the implementation of the early help strategy, with many more families receiving effective help at the right time.’
- ‘The response to exploitation through the EMPOWERU (contextual safeguarding hub) service is a real strength.’
On the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection:
- ‘Since the inspection in 2018, Birmingham Children’s Trust and partners have developed and implemented strong early help services for children and families. Children and families benefit from an effective early help offer, with services that support them at the lowest level of intervention. Children receive a timely and thorough assessment of their needs that leads to effective plans that improve their experiences.’
- ‘The emergency duty service responds to children’s needs in a timely and proportionate way. The service interacts and aligns with daytime and weekend services, with effective handover arrangements to daytime services.’
- ‘When children are identified as being at risk of harm, there is an effective response through timely child protection strategy meetings, which are overseen well by managers and result in clear actions.’
- Views of children, parents and professionals are sought to inform assessments and, as a result, child protection enquiries are thorough and lead to children receiving the right level of support.’
- ‘Children and families benefit from the timely allocation of social workers, who commence assessments promptly. The views of children and adults are threaded throughout the assessment. Strengths and protective factors are clearly identified and inform analysis and appropriate decision-making. Management oversight consistently informs next steps.’
On the experiences and progress of children in care:
- ‘Children enter care in a timely manner and when it is in their interests to do so. Decisions for children to come into care are appropriately overseen by a senior manager. There is a clear rationale and children reviewing their records would understand why decisions were made about them.’
- ‘Children’s identity needs are well considered when seeking an appropriate placement match. Careful consideration is given to sibling relationships, with effective together or apart assessments helping to determine appropriate placement needs. This enables children to live with their brothers and sisters when it is in their best interests.’
- ‘Children are encouraged and supported to keep in touch with important people in their lives. Family-time arrangements are in line with children’s needs. Social workers reassess arrangements when circumstances change, or children express views of not wishing to see parents.’
- ‘Thorough court social work assessments are reducing the need for the number of expert and independent social worker assessments. This is contributing to improved timescales and, as a result, decisions about children’s long-term plans are made sooner.’
- ‘Children’s wishes and feelings are well considered and integrated into care plans, for example, their wishes around family time.’
- ‘Children leave care to return to their families when it is right to do so.’
On the experiences and progress of care leavers:
- ‘Care-experienced young people benefit from personal advisers (PAs) who make time to develop strong and supportive relationships with their young people, understanding their lived experiences and their needs.’
- ‘The local offer for care-experienced young people is comprehensive and is readily available in a range of formats. Care-experienced young people are familiar with the offer and appreciate the range of support it provides. PAs routinely share the offer and discuss it with young people but are always conscious of the need to ensure that young people fully understand their options and make well-informed choices.’
- ‘Care-experienced young people are actively involved in a range of events, conferences, and forums. These are a regular forum for providing information and exploring opportunities, but also for care experienced young people to showcase their achievements, meet up with others and feel valued.’
- ‘Care-experienced young people who are parents feel particularly involved in contributing their voice. They feel that what they say is listened to and makes a difference, such as the development of a pregnancy pathway. They value participation opportunities as social events and feel less isolated as a result. They feel connected to senior leaders and feel part of a large family.’
- ‘Accommodation options for young people are carefully considered with the young person’s input and in their best interests. The majority are in suitable accommodation.’