St Helens Council Wins Acclaim For It’s Childrens Service

St Helens Council has been highlighted by Ofsted for one of the services it provides for children and young people in the area. Ofsted has highlighted as effective practice, the work the local authority’s elected members do with young people in the area.

It comes as Ofsted publishes a report today on the services provided by local authorities for children young people in England.

The report, Narrowing the gap: the inspection of children’s services, finds that local authorities are well on the way to improving outcomes for children and young people. However, it reveals that the most vulnerable and underachieving children and young people continue to be let down.

Susan Richardson, Director of Children and Young People’s Services at St Helens Council, said: “We are delighted to be recognised by Ofsted as an authority that has strong partnerships with a range of agencies involved in supporting children and young people.

“Our Consultation, Participation and Engagement Strategy is testimony to partnership working. We need to hear the voices of our children and young people to ensure that the authority achieves its ambitions for them. Ofsted’s praise for St Helens reflects upon the hard work of elected members, Council staff and our partners and the commitment of everyone to further boost opportunities for all young people in all aspects of their lives”.

Today’s report found that most local authorities are making a good contribution towards delivering better outcomes for the majority of children and young people. However, the report also finds that for a significant minority provision is not good enough and authorities need to do more to redress this inequity.

Ofsted’s Director of Education, Miriam Rosen, said about today’s report:  “Councils and their partners should ensure that services are planned and delivered in an integrated way, and focus on ensuring that individual children and young people make progress. They should secure a balance between sustaining improvements to universal services, while investing in prevention and targeting resources on acute areas of need.”

The overall picture is an improving one, with children’s services in 107 out of the 139 authorities covered by today’s report making a good contribution towards delivering better outcomes for children and young people.

However, the biggest challenge continues to be narrowing the gap in opportunities and outcomes between the majority of children and young people and those that are vulnerable or underachieving.

A second significant theme is that strong partnerships between local authorities and other providers are of pivotal importance in order to secure the level of support and style of service delivery that will improve the achievements of children and young people.

Inspectors found the following strengths and weaknesses in meeting the five outcomes for children and young people.

Being healthy

Many schools are adopting the National Healthy Schools Programme, with an increasing number of schools achieving the National Healthy Schools standard.

However, a common area of weakness is the poor on-going monitoring and assessment of the physical and mental health needs of vulnerable groups, in particular looked-after children and children with disabilities.

Staying safe

The majority of councils and their partners are successfully securing children’s safety.

In higher performing areas, strong partnership working means that child protection has a high profile, and good analysis of need ensures that the most vulnerable children are safeguarded.

However, in weaker authorities, there are delays in completing assessments, thresholds to access social care services are set too high, and there is a lack of appropriate placements for looked after children. Too frequently, these act as barriers to children’s safety and well-being.

Enjoying and achieving

In the majority of areas, services make a good contribution to ensuring that children enjoy and achieve, but just over one in five local authority areas are only adequate in this regard.

High performing partnerships focus on raising educational standards, provide strong intervention and support for schools causing concern and are narrowing gaps in attainment and achievement for particular groups. They add value between Key Stages 1 and 2, as well as between Key Stages 3 and 4.

Nevertheless, in some areas there is ineffective local authority support for poor performing schools. For some children and young people, poor levels of attendance, unmet behavioural needs and high levels of exclusion are barriers to enjoying and achieving. There are also gaps between local authorities with regard to the extent to which they are improving pupils’ performance at different key stages, especially Key Stage 4.

Making a positive contribution

The majority of councils and their partners are performing well in enabling children and young people to make a positive contribution to their community, none were found to be inadequate.

High performing areas are effective in tackling issues raised by young people, such as bullying, and ensure that vulnerable groups and those with particular needs have opportunities to influence local policy and service improvements.

In weaker performing areas, services for vulnerable groups are frequently poorly coordinated and too many young people report that they do not have a voice in the key decisions that affect them.

Achieving economic well-being

Overall, a large majority of councils and their partners are good at supporting young people to achieve economic well-being.

In good partnerships all young people, including those from vulnerable groups, benefit from flexible progression routes and good quality advice and guidance.

However barriers to achieving economic well-being include insufficient support for young people who are not in education, employment or training; the variable quality and range of post-16 provision, and insufficient housing for those that need it.

The report also concludes that most councils and their partners demonstrate a good or outstanding capacity to improve services for children and young people.

The report examines evidence from joint area reviews of local authority children’s services which took place in 2005-06 and the annual performance assessment process that took place in 2006.