Bolton is officially one of the best authorities in the country when it comes to looking after its most vulnerable children.
Ofsted inspectors have given Bolton Council a ‘Good’ rating following an intensive review of its children’s social care services last month.
The council was praised for its good social work practice and for improving the experiences and outcomes of Looked After Children.
The inspection report states: “Children who need help and protection are supported by timely and effective services, delivered by skilled social workers.”
Children are also listened to and their views taken into account via a dedicated forum, Voice4U.
The report adds: “Social workers build effective relationships with families and ensure that the voices of children inform their work….Creative direct work is undertaken with children to ensure that their wishes and feelings are understood and prioritised.”
The borough’s senior leaders and politicians were also commended for having a clear focus on prioritising support and financial resources for the most vulnerable children.
Inspectors were impressed that in addition to a lead member for children’s services, the council also had a further elected member in the role of Children’s Champion which ensured that children’s voices could influence wider council issues.
This was further reiterated with the success of an annual Children’s Vision Conference which sought children’s views on important services.
Only a handful of authorities have been inspected under the new Inspection of Local Authority Children’s Services framework (ILACS) which was introduced by Ofsted this year.
Bolton’s last inspection in 2014 resulted in a rating of Requires Improvement and the department has worked hard to make valid changes which go towards enhancing a young person’s experience of the service.
A Multi Agency Screening and Safeguarding Service (MASSS) is in operation and brings together a range of partners under one roof, ensuring prompt action, effective communication and clear processes for recording and responding to issues as they arise.
Cabinet Member for Education, Schools, Safeguarding and Looked after Children, Cllr Ann Cunliffe, said: “This is absolutely fantastic news and I’m so pleased for everyone in the department as I know they have worked incredibly hard to make improvements.
“The views and best interests of the borough’s most vulnerable children are the heart of everything we do, and I’m delighted that this has been reflected in Ofsted’s judgement.
“I’m so proud of the ‘Good’ rating but also acknowledge that there is still room for improvement. We are aware of the areas which need further work and there are already plans in place to address these. We are thrilled to be recognised as a leading authority and will continue to strive to be even better.”
In the report Ofsted highlighted the need to improve in a few areas but also recognised that partners have clear plans to do this.
These included: the capacity to support children affected by the impact of domestic abuse, the transition of children with a disability to adulthood, more effective permanency planning for children in foster care, and the need to have more effective outcomes from early help work.