AN ‘in-depth’ review into council-run services for some of the most vulnerable children in the town - which resulted in significant investment being poured in for up to 6,000 in-need youngsters - has led to inspectors praising the turnaround.
The ‘good’ rating - revealed this morning - follows a full inspection which was carried out in September by Ofsted.
It comes after ruling cabinet members approved a significant financial investment, with the report acknowledging that since the appointment of the new executive director 14 months ago - Carly Speechley - a review of all service areas has taken place.
Inspectors noted that a ‘thorough understanding and proactive responses’ are resulting in positive changes across the services for the borough’s children.
The report said: “Decisions for children to enter care are appropriate and timely with clear recorded management rationale.
“Swift action is taken to find the most appropriate homes for children when they are at risk, or when plans determine this is the right decision.
“Children benefit from extensive efforts by social workers to assess family members and to support children remaining within their family network where it is safe to do so.
“Social workers capture children’s views about their care and their voices help to shape their care planning.
“Children who need more specialised emotional support and interventions benefit from swift access to child and adolescent mental health services as there is priority access and ongoing interventions for children in care.
“The experiences and progress of care leavers have markedly improved since the focused visit earlier this year, where some areas for improvement were identified.
“The response to young people is now consistently good.
“Significant investment in the workforce and an unremitting drive to retain staff through generous incentive schemes have halved the use of agency staff since the arrival of the executive director.”
Children’s services take up one of the largest chunks of the council’s annual budget, with £162m set aside in 2023/24.
Ms Speechley told the Chronicle: “The pandemic saw many changes in the workforce and that was a challenge, but we’ve now secured permanent staffing.
“Cabinet approved more than £13m in funding which allowed us to strengthen with more staff and that’s important because children’s services covers a broad range of vulnerable youngsters from zero to 18 years of age.
“They’re a committed, passionate group and they’re ambitious in order to secure Ofsted’s outstanding rating in the future.”
Coun Trevor Cave, cabinet spokesperson for children’s services, praised staff for their hard work.
He added: “This rating is a fantastic achievement for Barnsley and reflects the hard work and commitment of our children’s services staff, along with the dedication and support of the council via the investment we’ve put in to help us achieve this.
“Inspectors could see how much children matter in Barnsley - we strive to make sure their voices are heard and involve them in our decision making.
“We mean it when we say we want Barnsley to be the place of possibilities for every child and young person who lives here, and we will continue to work hard to make this happen.
“Carly’s brought in a strong focus in improvement and our staff go above and beyond.”