Derby City Council’s recent inspection by Ofsted, where children’s services were judged to be good, has demonstrated that the authority takes its corporate parenting responsibilities seriously.
The Council currently has around 480 children and young people in its care. It’s the responsibility of all councillors and employees to act as their corporate parents; this means ensuring that the local authority provides the same support and care a parent would.
Last year, we made The Pledge, which was written by children and young people in our care and details what they can expect from the Council as their corporate parent. More recently, we met with the Children in Care Council to listen to their views and ensure that we regularly update The Pledge and take on board their feedback.
As the Cabinet Member for Safeguarding and Children and Young People, it’s my responsibility to oversee that process, while ensuring that all employees and elected members understand their responsibilities towards looked after children.
It’s vitally important for councillors to be good corporate parents. As the public face of the authority and representatives of our communities, we must take a leading role in making sure that the Council fulfils both its legal and moral duty to those in its care.
That’s why I’ve been encouraging my colleagues to make annual visits to the city’s children homes and to engage with both looked after children and care leavers. We want to make sure that the voice of these children is heard when councillors make decisions about the services they receive.
But before any of these visits can take place, it’s important we have appropriate protections in place. As such, I’ve recently ensured that elected members undertake a comprehensive programme of mandatory safeguarding training and have a valid DBS certificate prior to participating in any activity involving children and young people.
Some children have come from challenging backgrounds, experienced serious trauma during their early upbringing or have been victims of abuse. It is therefore crucial that councillors understand the sensitivities surrounding their care when carrying out the visits.
The training is designed to raise awareness of those issues and to take account of the many different reasons why a child or young person may end up in our care.
Our aim is to constantly improve the services we offer. With this ambition in mind, Derby City Council has recently made 50 pledges, across a broad range of services. This has included a number of commitments regarding children in care.
For example, we have pledged to ensure that all of Derby’s children’s homes are judged good or outstanding by Ofsted. I am pleased to report that six of our homes currently meet this target.
Meanwhile, we are protecting the services that ensure fewer children are taken into care in the first place. For instance, we will maintain current social worker numbers; keep our core offer at ten children’s centres across the city and offer early intervention support to 400 families.
We have also pledged to listen and act on the views of young people, by developing a new multi-agency group to capture the voice of the child in our policies and strategies. Moreover, we have committed to create more apprenticeship and work experience opportunities for children in our care, so that they can lead successful and fulfilling careers.
Across the board, we want to provide the best possible services to vulnerable children. The recognition by Ofsted that children’s services in Derby are good is an important first step on delivering on our commitments. But we cannot afford to be complacent.
We must constantly strive to improve our services, so that the children in our care are well looked after and care leavers continue to have their needs met.
Councillor Sara Bolton
Cabinet Member for Safeguarding and Children and Young People