Children’s services in Lambeth improve, Ofsted finds
Ofsted inspectors have today recognised improvements in Lambeth’s children’s services, and ruled that they are no longer ‘inadequate’. Lambeth council has welcomed the finding, and has renewed its commitment to further progress.
The Ofsted report published today (May 9) says the service ‘requires improvement to be good’; this is an improvement from its conclusion in 2015, when the service was judged to be ‘inadequate’. The improvement follows heavy investment in the service, resulting in a more stable workforce, lower caseloads and improving social work practice.
‘Improving the lives of Lambeth’s children’
Cllr Lib Peck, Lambeth council leader, said: “We’re pleased that Ofsted has recognised the clear evidence of the improvements we have made in services for Lambeth children since the last inspection. The wide-ranging changes we have put in place are making a positive difference to the lives of the children in our care.
“This judgement is testament to the dedication and hard work of everyone who is committed to improving the lives of Lambeth’s children – from front-line staff and managers, to our senior officers and councillors. We are now determined to progress further down the path of improvement.”
A team of inspectors from Ofsted have made eight monitoring visits to Lambeth since 2015, to track progress on the improvement strategy put in place by the council to address the failings identified by Ofsted. The process culminated in a four-week re-inspection between January and February this year.
The final ‘re-inspection report’ found that:
“Since the most recent appointments of senior leaders in 2016, the pace of improvement has accelerated. Stronger, more stable leadership and committed corporate parenting mean that most vulnerable children are supported well. Children’s views influence policy and service development.”
Importantly too Ofsted found that “improved management oversight of decisions ensures that risks to children are identified quickly and assessed effectively” and that “children’s needs are assessed in the context of the whole family and lead to creative packages of support”.
It said: “Managers and social workers know that there is more to do, especially for those children who have a plan for adoption, so that children who cannot live with their families receive good services at the time they need them.”
The report says that children and families receive help at an early stage, and acknowledged the positive impact of the increase in the number of social workers permanently employed by Lambeth since 2015.
It said: “Since more social workers have come to work in Lambeth, children are starting to build trusting relationships with them. This is particularly improving for children looked after as more social workers are choosing to work permanently in the children looked after teams in Lambeth.
“Most care leavers live in good-quality accommodation in which they feel safe. Many young people are helped to live independently and are supported to have their own tenancy, which they value. Care leavers get on well with their personal advisers and social workers, although not enough young people are in education, employment or training.”
Lambeth’s Strategic Director for Children’s Services, Annie Hudson said she welcomed the report and that its findings were being carefully factored into Lambeth’s continuous improvement strategy.
She said: “‘I’m pleased that Ofsted found that Lambeth’s ‘Children at the Heart of Practice’ framework is supporting a culture of child-centred reflective practice. This is really focussing all our attention on helping children have better and safer lives.”
Ms Hudson said the service had come a long way since 2015.
She said: “It is clear from today’s report that there is much more work to do to achieve the very highest practice standards that will enable children have the very best life outcomes. We will build further on local partnership working strengths to maintain unrelenting focus on continuing improvement on all fronts. This includes not compromising on the importance of securing timely permanence through adoption when appropriate.”
The report made 12 recommendations for further progress, including:
- Recruit enough adopters to meets the need of children in Lambeth
- Consider how to better engage young people who are gang affiliated, leaving custody, and those who have more entrenched criminal behaviours, so that they achieve better outcomes.
- Improve the frequency, quality and consistency of management oversight and supervision in all teams. Ensure that supervision is regular, reflective and challenging, and that managers record the rationale for their case decisions.
- Improve the quality of assessments so that the lived experiences of children are fully understood and inform plans.
- Develop an approach for assessing and responding to children detained in custody.
- Improve oversight of children in care with substance misuse difficulties and ensure that services and interventions are sufficient for them to receive the right help at the right time.
- Offer more practical and timely help to ensure that young people leaving care gain the skills and attitudes they need to better engage in education, employment or training.