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Outstanding Ofsted rating for Suffolk children's social care services

Social care services for children in Suffolk have been hailed by independent inspectors as being of an 'exceptionally high standard' and is one of a handful in the country to receive the top rating.

Education watchdog Ofsted visited Suffolk County Council’s children’s social care services in April and gave the service the ‘outstanding’ rating in three of four areas.

Margaret Burke, lead inspector, said in the report: “Services for children are of an exceptionally high standard.

Endeavour House, Ipswich (10876954)
Endeavour House, Ipswich (10876954)

“They are child-focused and make a positive difference to children’s lives.

“Workers build positive and purposeful working relationships with children and their families.

“They ensure children are safeguarded and that their wider needs are addressed.”

Areas to have been highlighted include the multi-agency safeguarding hub which signposts families to the appropriate care, its case management process and high standards of staff.

Gordon Jones, Conservative cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills, said it was only the sixth authority in the country to receive ‘outstanding’ rating.

“I am very pleased because it’s recognition of all the hard work staff have put in,” he said.

“It validates all the progress we have made since 2013 [when it had an adequate rating] and I think it’s good for the families too.

“They have some external reassurance of the outstanding service that we provide.

“We are not complacent – far from it – and the team aren’t complacent either. They were never satisfied just being good.”

The rating comes after the council’s special educational needs and disabilities (Send) provision was deemed to be failing by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission, leading to NHS England and the Department for Education stepping in for meetings.

It has raised questions over how one area of the council’s children’s services department can be rated so differently to another.

“They are very different. There is increasing demand in social care and children in care, foster carers, etcetera," said Cllr Jones.

Jack Abbott, Labour education spokesman, said: “This is a really encouraging report and I congratulate the staff who have worked hard in achieving this positive judgment.

“However, while this is unquestionably a glowing verdict, it is in stark contrast to the local area Send inspection earlier in the year which delivered such a damning verdict.

“Understandably, people are asking questions as to why there is such a disparity between children’s social care services and Send provision in our county.

“I hope this report signals that things are finally beginning to change for children in Suffolk.”

Penny Otton, leader of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group, said: “We’re very pleased Ofsted have judged Suffolk’s children’s services to be ‘outstanding’.

“This is a clear endorsement of our extremely hard-working and dedicated frontline staff.

“However, it concerns me greatly that Suffolk County Council still struggles to fill social worker vacancies.

“To keep up this high standard, it is vital we can continue to attract quality staff.”

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