Martin Samuels, strategic director for people at Dudley Council, reflects on the authority’s recent inspection of children’s care services
I am delighted that Dudley Council’s services for vulnerable children are no longer rated as “inadequate” following a visit from Ofsted at the back end of last year.
We were really pleased that the inspectors recognised how, as a whole council, we had made significant progress in improving services for vulnerable children and young people in our borough.
The report said areas of service which had been identified as “inadequate” in the previous inspection, in early 2016, had been “turned around” and “now deliver better quality and more focused and child-centred practice”.
That in turn has led to “better long-term outcomes” for children in care, inspectors said.The final rating – “requires improvement to be good” – is a reminder that we still have some way to go to get to where we want to be, which is as a “good” then ultimately an “outstanding” authority.
But we must also remember that to jump from “inadequate” to “good” is practically unheard of. It just doesn’t happen. We were rated “good” in two of the three service areas Ofsted inspected. We came within a whisker of making that very rare jump and that is a testament to the hard work of everyone behind the scenes.
Reflecting on this, three things stand out for me. First, there needs to be a huge ambition, shared by leaders and partners, staff and families, that improvement is essential and urgent. Only with that drive were we able to face the hard road that lay ahead of us.Second, we had to be humble and develop true self-awareness, recognising where we fell short of what was required, but also where we were strong. The journey starts from where you are, not where you would like to be.
Third, there is the risk that rapid improvement may be built on shallow foundations. We have achieved much, but the dangers of sliding into complacency are real, so we need to maintain the energy and commitment, moving onwards.
I would like to personally thank everyone – management, social workers, staff, partners - for their tireless efforts.
It was nice to see those efforts recognised, and not just in the final inspection report. We were pleased to receive letters from Yvette Stanley, national director for social care at Ofsted, and government minister Nadhim Zahawi MP congratulating everyone on the great strides made.
We recognise there is still a long way to go, and that in many ways this just represents the start of the journey. But we are determined to get there.
Martin Samuels, Chair of ADASS WM and Strategic Director for People, Dudley Council