At Telford & Wrekin Council our children are cared for and they are cared about. That’s what Ofsted said in its recent inspection that judged us to be ‘outstanding’. And, as leader, I couldn’t be more proud.
We are the only council in the Midlands to have this rating and the second in the UK to have made the move from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘outstanding’ in a single leap.
I became leader at Telford & Wrekin Council three weeks after our disappointing ‘requires improvement’ assessment in 2016. I knew then that we were better than the Ofsted rating, but also recognised we needed to do things differently moving forward – after all, looking after our children and young people is the most important thing we do as a council and as a parent, as well as a corporate parent. I wanted to make sure all of our borough’s children have the future I want for my own.
Now, four years on, Ofsted says our children are valued and receive child-focused services, the council is exceptionally strong at looking after children in our care and our response to children facing risks outside of the family is an area of excellent practice.
The report also says that we deliver high quality social work, our officers, elected members and partners work well together and that as leaders we have a clear and ambitious vision.
So how did we take this gigantic step from ‘requiring improvement’ to becoming an ‘outstanding’ authority?
Despite our Government funding dropping by nearly 50%, we made a conscious decision to invest in our children’s services. We put an additional £13.7m of our own resources into the service since 2018/19 so we could meet our increased demand and drive our improvement journey.
The £7.5m additional income generated since 2013 through growth in business rates and council tax, our investment in our wholly-owned letting company, Nuplace, delivered £3.2m of income since 2015/16 and the £200,000 profits every year from our solar farm are critical to ensuring we can invest in our children’s services properly, to make them the best they can be.
Ensuring our innovative approach to commercial services directly impacts on our priorities is strategically important to us and is an area we will continue to develop.
We have also invested in our social workers and support staff, as they are our most precious resource for vulnerable children and their families. We have developed a strong learning culture at all levels of the service which has built capacity within our high- performing teams.
Audits that cover the work of managers as well as social workers offer additional development opportunities, allowing us to reflect on and improve practice models that are clearly helping our children.
Our senior management team and frontline managers are highly visible, creating strong foundations and effective relationships with their colleagues, helping to develop and sustain good social work practice.
We are also continuing to strengthen our impressive workforce by retaining and attracting social workers through the implementation of a new career progression and pay structure. We also try hard to ensure our staff have manageable workloads, allowing them to do meaningful social work with children, so we can make a real difference to their young lives.
As a local authority, we aim to protect, care and invest in our services. We have demonstrated our commitment to this with our approach to investing budget and resources into our children’s social care services.
There is still work more to do, of course, and we are rightly ambitious for our children and their families. As a council, we remain determined to reducing inequality and stimulating economic growth, so we can create a safe and prosperous environment for all of our communities where children are happy, safe and most importantly, have a sense of belonging.
Cllr Shaun Davies is leader of Telford & Wrekin Council
If you want to find out more about our story, visit: www.telford.gov.uk/outstandingofsted