Watchdog praises work of once-embattled Leeds council department

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The care being provided for vulnerable youngsters in Leeds has been hailed by Government inspectors – completing a remarkable turnaround from the shaming aftermath of the Casey Mullen scandal.

Leeds City Council’s children’s services department faced condemnation in 2009 following a serious case review into the rape and murder of Gipton two-year-old Casey by her uncle.

An unannounced inspection by the Government’s Ofsted watchdog on the same day as the publication of the review report found scores of youngsters across the city were at risk of abuse and neglect.

But now, following a fresh inspection, Ofsted has handed the council a ‘good’ overall rating for its work on behalf of children in care or in need of help and protection.

Leeds is the only one of the eight largest cities in England outside London to be given the rating since the introduction of a new inspection framework.

Areas singled out for praise included leadership, management and governance, which were classed as outstanding.

The council’s efforts to identify young people at risk of child sexual exploitation were also commended.

Better intervention work and a sweeping reorganisation of services are said to have contributed to the dramatic raising of standards at the department.

The number of youngsters in Leeds on a child protection plan dropped from 983 in 2013 to 643 in February this year.

Ofsted also highlighted the effectiveness of the Leeds Safeguarding Children Board, an independently-chaired statutory body that brings together agencies including the council and the police.

Coun Judith Blake, the council’s executive member for children and families, said: “This Ofsted judgement is a fantastic endorsement of the ambition and drive of all our partners across the city to improve the lives of the most vulnerable children and young people in Leeds.

“We have worked hard to make sure that children are at the heart of everything we do – not just within children’s services but throughout all council services, and through our work with organisations across the city.

Coun Blake added: “This is a very important step on our improvement journey, but there is still a long way to go to achieve our aim to make this the best city to grow up in for all young people.”

Nigel Richardson, director of children’s services at the council, said: “This great achievement is only possible through the hard work of the staff of the service who really do put children at the heart of everything they do.

“Whether it is by working directly with vulnerable children and their families or support staff who work behind the scenes – everyone has a vital part to play in helping to improve the lives of children and young people across the city.”

Mr Richardson previously served as social care adviser on the inquiry panel established to learn lessons from the shocking death of eight-year-old abuse and neglect victim Victoria Climbie in London in 2000.

The council’s former director of children’s services, Rosemary Archer, brought forward her retirement from her £113,000-a-year role in 2009 following the damning findings of the Casey Mullen serious case review.

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