05:00PM, Friday 28 February 2020
Ofsted has rated the Royal Borough’s children’s services as ‘good’ in three key areas – but says it can still do more to improve the experiences of those in its care and leaving its care.
The rating follows a two-week inspection by the watchdog last month.
Inspectors rated the services as ‘good’ for overall effectiveness, the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families and the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection.
But they found it ‘required improvement’ for the experience and progress of children in care and care leavers.
Resources available to support care leavers into education, employment or training are not yet being used, said the report.
“There is an inconsistent approach to the efforts of staff to maintain contact with vulnerable, disengaged care leavers,” it added.
“Some staff are more determined than others to make sure that they keep in touch with them.”
Overall, the report found the department has made progress from a ‘requires improvement’ rating it received in 2015.
After that rating, in a bid to tackle a loss of focus and direction, and frequent changes in management, the Royal Borough delegated its statutory children’s services to the Achieving for Children (AfC), a Community Interest Company, a move that the inspectors approved.
The partnership between the council, as commissioner, and AfC, as provider of services, works effectively, resulting in ‘strong scrutiny and accountability’, they found.
The pace of change was initially slow but an Ofsted visit in 2018 found services to children were beginning to improve, and this has quickened over the past year, according to the latest report. This was especially true for children in need of help and protection.
The legacy of poorer practice is still evident for children in some areas of the service but 'learning from audits and management oversight is now implemented well', it said.
The report added: “The large majority of children now benefit from interventions that improve their quality of life.”
Inspectors found that early help services were strong, and there was an ‘impressive breadth’ of interventions and services that addressed challenging circumstances of children and their families.
Social workers understood child development across the age spectrum and made ‘sound appraisals of risk and need’, the report said.
Children were also attending school more regularly and achieving more than they were before.
Welcoming the report, Kevin McDaniel, director of Children’s Services at AfC, said: “I am looking forward to continuing the rapid development of the services we offer to some of our most vulnerable residents as we work towards our ambition of achieving an outstanding rating in the future.”
Cllr Stuart Carroll (Con, Boyn Hill), lead member for children’s services, said the Royal Borough has ‘made huge strides’ in improving children’s social care services.
“We need to continue to build on what we have achieved and continue to strive to improve what we do for our children and young people,” he said.
Read the full report here.
The Ofsted report lists the following as ‘what needs to improve’:
The attendance of community health colleagues at strategy meetings and the provision of accurate health passports to care leavers.
The report says absence of different agencies has ‘the potential to undermine the accountability of each agency and health passports which, when provided, ‘are incomplete’ and are aimed to ‘understand their health history’.
Support for care leavers, to include ensuring that their voices are heard, both in developing the service and in their pathway plans, as well as guidance when they are not in education, employment and training, and practical advice and preparation for adulthood.
Pathways plans are described in the report as varying in quality.
Where care leavers’ views are included, it says, ‘their words are not used, so it is difficult to determine which are their own wishes and feelings’.
The quality and consistency of recording.
The stability of the workforce to reduce the number of changes of social worker for children.
The report reads: “Some children experience too many changes of social worker, making it hard for them to invest in building meaningful, trusting relationships with their social worker.”
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