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Sunderland Make Headway in Improving Children’s Services

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Sunderland reduce their Social Worker’s caseload by half as they are adopted by Together for Children, allowing them to focus on providing the highest quality support and assessment for EACH child.

In July 2015 OFSTED’s report was published, and highlighted some concerns for Sunderland’s Children’s Social Services. It showed that Sunderland were performing inadequately across a range of services including child protection, adoption, and children in care.

The report pointed out that the concerns were at corporate and management level which would leave children and young people at risk. Upon inspection, 21 children’s cases were referred back to the children’s team by inspectors to request that action be taken to ensure children’s needs were met correctly.

The report outlines the main failings were as a result of:

• Social Workers given high caseloads, meaning that key tasks were not carried out and effective support was not provided to children.
• A high level of unallocated cases where the extent and seriousness of the issues affecting children were unknown.
• Insufficient and poorly coordinated services were provided for children missing from home, care, education or at risk of child sexual exploitation
• Particularly poor services for care leavers, which mean that some care leavers are living in unsatisfactory and sometimes unsafe circumstances without adequate help or support

As a result, the new company ‘Together for Children’ took control of delivering children's services in Sunderland. Together for Children' is the first organisation of its kind in the country, working at arms-length from the local authority, which will own and hold the company to account. The company will take control of the 58,000 children, young people and their families.

Their vision is clear, ‘To improve the lives of children and their families, keep children safe from harm, and ensure they have the opportunity to fulfil their potential’.

From the first of April, more than 800 members of the team, including social care staff, early years, family support, education and other specialists such as youth offending and substance misuse, transferred to Together for Children. Since the 2015 OFSTED report, there has been significant improvements made to the service:

• A permanent senior management team in place to support the delivery of safe and effective services
• A reduction in the number of unallocated cases from 269 at the time of the 2015 inspection to just nine at the end of January 2017.
• Average caseloads down to 19 in January 2017 compared to between 30 to 40 in 2015.
• 92% of child protection visits completed in ten working days, compared with 55% completed in 28 days in 2015.
• 96% of care leavers now have a pathway plan compared to 69 per cent in November 2015.
The new company will be run by one CEO alongside a team of five directors and children's services staff who have transferred from the council.
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