Following the publication of Ofsted’s latest report into children’s services in Knowsley, we caught up with Paul Boyce, Knowsley Council’s Executive Director (Children) to ask more about what it means for the borough.
Back in 2014, Ofsted inspected Knowsley’s services for children in need of help and protection, children looked after and care leavers. The inspection judgement was ‘inadequate’. Since then, the council has been working tirelessly to turn around this judgement.
Here’s what Paul had to say:
You must be delighted with Ofsted’s judgement?
“Yes, it acknowledges the hard work, support and commitment of our staff and partners working together for the benefit of our children, young people and families across Knowsley. We’ve been waiting to have our ‘inadequate’ tag removed and today, we have. To have three ‘good’ judgements (two of which were previously ‘inadequate’) is fantastic. I am extremely proud of the achievements and how far we have come in a short space of time.”
I’m sure it hasn’t been easy. How did you do it?
“Like you say, it hasn’t been easy and we couldn’t have achieved it without each and every member of staff and service area playing its part, as well as the support of our partner agencies. We reviewed where improvements needed to be made, how improvements could be made and how we could track our progress. We established an Improvement Board, chaired by an independent Chair – Malcolm Newsam. The Board also had representatives from the Department for Education and Ofsted. We have undergone a complete service transformation, both in terms of structure and culture. This isn’t something that has happened overnight, but we have taken the time to do it properly and we are now reaping the benefits. Ofsted commended our ‘whole council’ approach to driving forward the improvements – it isn’t something one person, team or service could do in isolation.”
What has been your biggest achievement / what are you most proud of?
“There are too many to list! A key highlight for me is staff telling me that they love coming into work and that Knowsley is a great place to work . We suffered with high turnover of staff and an over-reliance on agency staff at the start of this journey, so continuity of service provision was a challenge! Ofsted commended us on our success in recruiting and retaining high quality staff which has resulted in a stable workforce. We have also invested in technology, enabling our social workers to be able to do their jobs whilst out and about with children and families, giving them access to the information they need, whilst providing better engagement opportunities with children and visits and updates being able to be recorded real-time.
“Another achievement for me is the work we do with our MADE Group (Making A Difference Everywhere). They are representatives of our children looked after who work with council and partner representatives to ensure their views, wishes, feelings are listened to and work with us to identify solutions. Ofsted highlighted this work in their inspection – MADE is regularly consulted and has made a valuable contribution to improving services. This includes their participation in producing a virtual memory box to save personal memories for children in need for help and protection as well as children looked after. Given we are here to support our children and young people, as well as being the corporate parent for children looked after, it’s great that they feel involved, informed and have an opportunity to influence the services we provide.”
What does this mean for children and residents in Knowsley?
“Having the ‘inadequate’ tag removed offers reassurance to our children, young people and families that they are receiving good services from us. Inspectors commented that children are well supported and are known by their social worker. Care Leavers were particularly highlighted as a strength, with good support by workers who are available at times when they need help the most, such as evenings and weekends.”
What are the next steps?
“We will not become complacent and we will continue to maintain and further drive improvements across children’s social care. We have a few areas for improvement which we will continue to address through our Improvement Board and our on-going service improvements. We have a high quality workforce who are committed to ensuring the very best outcomes for our children, young people and families and we will continue to drive improvements to ensure they are fully supported to achievement their potential and flourish.”