Council children's home gets Outstanding ratingPublished Thursday, 1st December 2016
Rotherham's last remaining children’s home has been rated as "outstanding" in a first for the town.
Liberty House Children's Home, which offers short breaks, has been given the highest accolade by the Government's Ofsted inspectors following a review of its services at the beginning of November.
At the last full inspection this service received a judgement of "good", but in the latest inspection inspectors said: "It has since improved so significantly, it now offers an excellent service to young people helping them achieve outstanding outcomes."
They added they were impressed with staff at the home's "can do"attitude saying that "a real strength of this service is the development of young people's skills and confidence through the provision of a range of challenging and new experiences."
Rotherham Council last month agreed to close both Cherry Tree House and Silverwood children's homes as part of its move towards more family based placements. This followed closures last year of both St Edmunds and Woodview children's homes. One of the reasons for the closures were that these homes were not providing the high standard of care now expected for children in the Council's care.
Liberty House – a short breaks centre for children with complex needs – has, on the other hand, consistently been getting good and improving ratings from Ofsted over the last few years.
And Ofsted inspectors in their recent full inspection said the home was outstanding in every single area, with no areas for further improvement.
This is a rare achievement not just locally, but nationally, as children's homes are finding it increasingly hard to manage to achieve well due to financial pressures. This is on top of having to work to tougher Ofsted measures after standards changed in 2015.
Ian Thomas, Director of Children's Services at Rotherham Council said: "This really is a testament to the great work the team at Liberty House do with the young people who they support and is a reflection of all the hard work that goes into the running of this home and ensuring that the best possible outcomes are achieved for the young people it supports.They really think about the detail at Liberty and they clearly listen to what the children and young people want and have worked hard to achieve well within the means that they have."
Liberty House offers a package of support for children aged eight to 18 who have physical and emotional difficulties and for their families. In the last few years the home has undergone a refurbishment scheme as the way it was set up was not conducive to what managers wanted to be able to achieve for the young people. As a result the internal structure was reconfigured, making open plan spaces to help foster the look and feel needed to make residents feel comfortable.
Staff have also engaged partner support, including with Dearne Valley College, which has given them the use of their gymnasium so the children have been able to do archery, football and basketball, among other things. Activity was seen as a crucial part of the redesign focus as it helps residents interact with each other, which helps stimulate them in various ways.
Liberty House manager Darren Higgins said: "Parents have been so supportive of the work we have been doing and the feedback we have got is amazing as they really see the benefits of their children being here.
"We pride ourselves on the heart to heart we have with parents and the really good links we have established and we want to do even more to develop these links. But the biggest achievement for us is seeing the changes to the children themselves. Seeing them interact with each other, relationships and friendships developing and struggles being overcome is really heart-warming. These are children with complex needs. They can't do what regular children do – like hang around outside with each other, have sleepovers or go to Meadowhall. Instead they have Liberty House and what we offer them gets them as near to this sense of normality as possible and that is what makes all the difference."
Cllr Gordon Watson, Deputy Leader of Rotherham Council and Cabinet Member for Children and Young People's Services added: "This really is an amazing achievement not only for the staff and young people at this children's home, but for children’s homes in Rotherham in general. To my knowledge this is the first time we have had an outstanding result like this and it shows exactly what we want and expect to achieve for our looked after children. No longer can we be complacent and accept second best. Darren and the team at Liberty House have proved that first place is the only place and this is the standard we will be expecting from everyone who is charged with the care of our young people from now on. Well done to everyone involved with Liberty House!"