Children's services have been rated 'good' Credit: Torbay Council

Steve Darling: Never doubt how collective group can change a child’s life

Torbay Weekly

It is with great pride that we learnt last week that Ofsted inspectors rated Torbay children’s services as ‘good’ after years of underperforming.

To be acknowledged as finally making a positive difference to the lives of our children and their families is fantastic and humbling – it is what they deserve.

Being a father and also adopted makes this a topic close to my heart.

It is unlikely that I would have had the same life chances if I hadn’t had the loving support of my adoptive family.

I want all children to have the same opportunities that I had.

Making real improvements to Torbay’s children’s services has been a huge aim of mine and that of Cordelia Law, who is the Cabinet member responsible for children’s services.

We have been determined to do all we can to help turn the tide and make the improvements that families and children in Torbay deserve.

It is fantastic to see after being graded as ‘inadequate’ in our last two inspections that a sea change in our services has now being recognised.

This significant improvement, which has been recognised by inspectors as an ‘impressive achievement’, is true testament to the dedication of our staff and fostering families who demonstrate their commitment to our children every single day.

This is echoed by the support of senior leaders, partners and the council as a whole. My thanks go to every single one of you.

To leap up two gradings is no easy feat, but it signifies the priority that this Partnership administration between the Liberal Democrats and Independents is putting on keeping children safe.

As a corporate parent, my Cabinet colleagues and I are passionate in wanting the residents of Torbay to thrive.

Children may only represent 23 per cent of Torbay’s population, but they are 100 per cent of our future.

All of this has been achieved in the backdrop of a global pandemic and Government austerity measures.

We have risen to the challenge and taken a tight grip on our finances so we can transform services and help our children, young people and families to thrive.

We have taken a proactive approach to the national issue of recruiting social workers and have focused on nurturing home-grown talent.

As a result, we don’t rely on expensive agency workers and provide the environment needed by our dedicated staff.

We have recruited a strong and growing foster family network, which means we are not reliant on costly residential care and can provide safe, loving homes for vulnerable children in our care.

Ultimately, the real impact lies in the strengthened and meaningful relationships that children are building with foster carers and social workers, developing trust and hopeful futures.

Last week, we celebrated their successes through our very first children’s services celebration awards, which was held with our foster carers during foster care fortnight.

This was a wonderful event and an opportunity for children’s services colleagues and foster carers to come together to reflect on the successes of the past year, be inspired and celebrate the outstanding achievements of individuals and teams.

It is a poignant reminder that we must never doubt how a collective group of thoughtful people can change a child’s life.

This improvement journey has captured the hearts and minds of the whole council and our partners, and we will continue to work together to strive towards making even more improvements to deliver outstanding services.

We are now galvanised to build upon these successful foundations with local children, young people and their families, so we can support them in the challenges that may lie ahead.

Our improvement journey is a message of hope to our wider community.

It is a message of what positive change can come about from working alongside one another and a steadfast passion for delivering better outcomes.

This is most importantly an example of local government working with its partners as it should, as a force for good.