The latest report by Swindon Borough Council’s children’s services makes the turn around in its work clear.

After a report which said the service ‘required improvement ‘in 2014 and a couple of equally critical smaller reports after that, the government watchdog Ofsted recently rated Swindon’s work with children as ‘Good.’

Now the council’s own summary of performance for the April to June this year shows that outcomes are improving for children in many areas.

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The report by Lee-anne Farach shows that the number of children at risk of serious harm and needing a child protection plan has dropped. At the end of June there were 260 children in the borough at such risk, compared to 408 in June 2018.

Ms Farach said: “Swindon is closing the gap with its comparators with 52 per 10,000 population under 18 on a child protection plan compared to 45 nationally.”

The number of children in need – which means they are assigned a social worker but their case does not merit a protection plan has also dropped to 1,045 at the end of the three month period this year compared to 1477 12 months before.

And 100 per cent of family service cases that were ’stepped across’ form social care have had not referral back to social care within six months.

Ms Farach said: “This is a significant improvement form 33 per cent in June 2018 and gives confidence that early years help services are providing the necessary support to families., who are on the path to managing without any support service provision in the long term.”

The council’s cabinet member for children and school attainment Mary Martin said she was very happy with these results, and others: “It’s these sort of outcomes that make all the hard work worth it. It’s why we do it, to be able to make a difference to children and their families.

“In Ofsted reports subsequent to the 2014 one inspectors said the direction of travel was the right one, and they said we had a good plan to bring about the improvements necessary, and wanted us to carry on.

“Now that plan is starting to pay off and we are seeing better outcomes.”

The report to the council’s health, care and education scrutiny committee also showed that referrals of children and families to the multi-agency safeguarding hub – the first point of contact if there are concerns- have dropped by nearly 4 per cent form the same three months last year to this – this year’s figure is now 3597.

And the council is starting to succeed in attracting more social workers to come and work for it – an important measure in providing stability for children in its care.

An event in May designed to get temporary agency social workers to join the council as permanent staff saw 16 people make enquiries, with 10 of those already confirmed as joining.

Whereas 13 looked-after children had experienced three different placements in the first quarter of 2018-2019, none had been moved around as often in the same quarter this year, but the report admits more work is needed.

Ms Farach said: “Stability of care placement is lower than the national average, which is a concern and long-term stability is less robust for children placed further from home.”

Coun Martin said the good Ofsted rating has not just given managers and staff at the council a boost, but also gives them the confidence to know when they’re doing the right thing, and when things go wrong.

She said: “We know what good practice looks like now. And that means when we see something that doesn’t match that, when it’s not meeting that standard we are able to say so immediately, and put it right as soon as possible

“The one thing I’m very keen on, and I know David Haley and his management team is also, is not to rest on our laurels. It’s great to have been given a good rating – but everybody wants to push on and get an outstanding next time.”