An honest and frank review of Northumberland’s care leavers service by an outside team didn’t throw up any surprises in terms of areas of improvement.
A peer challenge team, of three senior staff from other local authorities and a Local Government Association coordinator, spent two days looking at the county’s service in September.
The council’s executive director of children’s services, Cath McEvoy-Carr, explained that this process provided an opportunity to gauge the progress made since the service was ‘quite significantly criticised’ by Ofsted in 2016.
Since then, ‘a lot of work has taken place with a new senior manager, who made quite significant changes to how it was run and changed the culture to make sure young people are the focus’.
She added: “A lot of the findings we were already aware of, but they have provided a bit of challenge on how we structure the service.”
The reviewers’ feedback featured 13 strengths and 14 recommendations for further consideration.
The strengths included that ‘staff are motivated, passionate and committed to their roles with a clear focus on supporting the young people they work with’ and that ‘there is clear evidence of an improving service for care leavers and a desire within the workforce to build on this and improve the lives of young people’.
The recommendations included a number of references to increased oversight as well as ‘ensuring that the emotional wellbeing and mental health of looked-after children and care leavers is considered in any service review and that appropriate support is provided at all levels’.
Coun Wayne Daley, the cabinet member for children’s services, who was interviewed as part of the process, said: “I see this as an action plan for improvement.
“Peer review is a good idea, because there were challenging questions. This will help frame and improve and refresh the service as we go forward.”
Councillors on the family and children’s services committee, which received the report last week, heard that the proportion of care leavers going onto further education is better than other local authorities.
The service has an aim to increase the number of young people who are in employment, education or training.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service