This is a huge achievement, and we are in a minority for achieving this status. To have done so following two years of upheaval caused by the pandemic is even more of an achievement. It shows that we focused on continuing not only to deliver services during that time, with social workers continuing to see families throughout the pandemic, but we also maintained our commitment to improving our work with children and families despite the challenging context.
Looking after vulnerable families and protecting children is one of the most important roles that a local authority has. If a council gets this wrong, terrible tragedies can happen. But when it’s going well, it’s often unseen by the public, and the hard work of everyone keeping children safe goes unthanked. So it was brilliant when, after publication was held up by the local elections, Ofsted announced last month that Merton’s children’s services are officially OUTSTANDING.
The report praised the “highly aspirational and committed senior managers and political leaders placed childn and their families at the centre of their decision-making.” As the Cabinet member who was responsible for Children and Education over the past couple of years, I couldn’t be more proud of this achievement.
But we cannot rest on our laurels – there is always more work that we can do, and with the rising cost of living crisis pushing more families into poverty, the job is only going to get harder. Keeping children safe is everyone’s business. If you are ever worried about a child, if they are known to a school or charity, do first contact the institution’s Designated Safeguarding Lead. They can refer into our Children and Families Hub.