WHEN James’ children were taken into care, it was the relationships he built with social workers that helped him turn his life around.

Now the efforts of staff working for East Sussex County Council Children’s Services have been recognised with an ‘outstanding’ rating from Ofsted.

“I would not be the father I am today if it hadn’t been for the support from social services,” James told Your East Sussex. “Things have never been better and I know I have social services to thank for that,”

The father-of-four has nothing but praise for the social workers that supported him to change his ways and win back custody of his children.

“When social workers were saying ‘we are here to help you’, I didn’t listen,” he said. “But I wish I had known years ago how it could be.”

After spending nine months in a treatment centre and receiving intensive individual support and counselling and parenting work, James now lives with his two eldest children, while his partner has custody of the two younger siblings.

For social workers at East Sussex building enduring and trusting relationships with families is their priority, and it was this approach that won the praised of Ofsted inspectors who recognised its value.

Care leaver Seb entered the system at 14 and credits his social workers with helping to boost his confidence and get his life on track.

“I’ve had ups and downs, I battled with depression and anxiety, but the one constant in my life has been social services and it has been a really positive experience.

He added: “Social workers in East Sussex do go above and beyond and the personal connection is so important. When I came into the care system, I was a bit of a mess and I have got to where I’ve got to because of their support.”

Seb is about to start a law degree and says the support he’s received has made a difference.

“I had a bad childhood and a lot of people would have looked at me and thought I was not someone who was going to make anything of my life. But my social workers have always been behind me,” he said.

For the experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers, and the impact of leaders on social work practice, the authority has been rated ‘outstanding’, while the experiences of children who needed help and protection is deemed to be ‘good’.

The overall rating of ‘outstanding’ is one achieved by very few local authorities and inspectors praised the authority for establishing a “culture in which talented social workers stay, and where effective social work flourishes” and where connected practice results in “helpful, enduring and trusting relationships between practitioners, children and their families”

See the full report.