Government inspectors have praised Derbyshire County Council’s ‘passionate and skilled’ workforce for showing ‘ambition and determination to secure the best outcomes’ for young people leaving its care.
Inspectors from Ofsted spent two days in October visiting us to review the quality and performance of our Leaving Care service. They also spoke to staff, partnership agencies and care leavers themselves.
The inspection focused on the service since the we brought it back in-house in 2019 – a move made with a ‘determined focus by senior managers and elected members’ which inspectors said had resulted in ‘significant improvements’ which are ‘visible, tangible and sustained’.
They also said they were ‘humbled by the amazing strength’ of our care leavers.
The service currently supports 750 young people aged 16 to 25 – of which around 310 are aged 18 to 21 – who are preparing to leave foster care, children’s homes, semi-independent accommodation or supported lodgings.
The inspectors highlighted many areas for praise including:
- Improvements to the quality of individual support which mean most care leavers receive levels of support consistent with their needs
- A passionate and skilled workforce which is enabling care leavers to progress well and benefit from positive experiences – despite the significant challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic
- The aspirations, wishes and concerns for young people leaving our care are apparent and plans are ‘ambitious’ reflecting a ‘determination for care leavers to succeed in what they want to do.’
- A focus on effective transition for young people between the ages of 16 and 18 with support to develop confidence and life skills to negotiate the opportunities and challenges of adulthood.
The Leaving Care service supports young people in a variety of ways including to ensure they keep themselves healthy, fit and well, to find accommodation, to develop skills for independent living and help to get into work or training by linking up with employers and apprenticeships.
Cabinet Member for Education Councillor Alex Dale, who led the review of the Leaving Care service in 2018 and was interviewed as part of the Ofsted inspection, said:
“When young people in Derbyshire leave our care we want to make sure they’re well supported into their next stage in life.
“That’s why we took a fresh look at our leaving care service and three years ago we carried out an independent review to see what we did well and where we could do better.
“We welcome this Ofsted report in which the inspectors recognise the improvements we’ve already made, but we also know there is more work to do. An important part of this process has been asking young people what they thought and we’ll carry on talking to them.”
In their report the Ofsted inspectors also noted that:
- Young people leaving our care value the service and said workers are caring and supportive and they felt they could contact their worker when necessary
- Care leavers understand what we are offering and the choices available to them
- Effective partnerships are improving health provision for young people including the possibility of free prescriptions and access to local and specialist services
- Accommodation needs are carefully considered so young people feel secure and their wishes around location are respected so they can maintain relationships with people who are important to them
- There is a clear focus on education, employment and training designed to help young people of all abilities choose the appropriate route to make the most of their opportunities when they leave care
- There has been a significant increase in successful apprenticeships and young people going to university since the last inspection
- Our culture is ‘not giving up on a young person’ and this is embedded across the service.
Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Safeguarding Councillor Julie Patten, who took over responsibility for the Leaving Care service in May this year and was also interviewed as part of the Ofsted inspection, said:
“We want every child and young person in Derbyshire to have the best possible start in life and we currently support 750 young people who are leaving their foster family, children’s home or semi-independent accommodation for the first time.
“It’s a big move and we want to make sure each one of them is supported every step of the way to stay healthy and well, find suitable accommodation, develop life skills and get into work or training.
“I’m so pleased to see this Ofsted report highlight the achievements of not only our leaving care service but also our amazing young people as they leave care and start their adventure into adulthood.
“Their success further inspires our work to continue supporting them in every way we can and we’re not complacent about that because we know there’s always more to do. We’ll continue driving forward with even more improvements to the service following this positive inspection result.”
The inspectors also praised us for showing ‘ambition and determination to secure the best outcomes’ for care leavers and for continuing to develop partnerships to strengthen our multi-agency service.
In terms of staff and management their report stated:
- Staff have good training and are well supported by their managers
- Leaving care worker caseloads are manageable which allow for effective direct work with young people
- Senior managers have a good understanding of the strengths of the service and are aware of areas for further development
- Regular service reviews are well used to improve the service.