What is Ofsted and what is a focused visit?
Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. They are responsible for inspecting services providing education and skills for learners of all ages. They also inspect and regulate services that care for children and young people.
Ofsted inspect local authority services for children to make sure that their work is effective. They look at how well the local authority is protecting and helping children by checking the quality of the services offered, along with the effectiveness of the staff, and their impact on the lives of children and young people.
Focused visits from Ofsted are not inspections, so no judgement is given. Although inspectors provide feedback on areas of strength and improvement which Lambeth can then integrate into its service improvement work.
Lambeth receives praise for its ‘front door’ services
The visit was focused on the ‘front door’ service consisting of Early Help, which supports struggling families, the Integrated Referral Hub, which receives concerns about children in the community, and the Child Assessment Team.
‘Front door’ services refer to the provisions and arrangements that children’s services have in place when they are initially contacted by a professional or member of the public who is concerned about a child. The headline findings are positive and acknowledge the progress which has been made on Lambeth’s improvement journey since it received an “Requires Improvement to be Good” judgement in 2018.
Inspectors reported finding an effective ‘front door’ into children’s social care, building on the positive findings in this area from the previous inspection.
Ofsted also praised the strong and cohesive relationships between the various agencies and how they quickly provide and evaluate necessary background information. This is all overseen by experienced mangers that work swiftly and make clear and balanced decisions regarding next steps. Lambeth’s assessments of children and families are also carried out appropriately and rapidly, while always maintaining the context in mind.
As for the workforce, the council was praised for quickly implementing home working. Social workers’ work is generally highly complicated and can be very demanding, but despite this, the workload assigned to Lambeth social workers was found to be manageable. The staff are also given structured workforce and development support, along with advancement opportunities, which encourages social worker retention.
Within the letter, inspectors highlight two key areas of improvement: reviewing repeated assessments to understand why earlier interventions have not achieved sustained improvements in outcomes, and the more widespread application of Lambeth’s practice model.
Lambeth Children’s Services will be reviewing its work on these priorities and refocusing plans in the next 6 months to deliver the requisite improvements relating to these themes.
Cllr Ed Davie, Lambeth Council Cabinet Member for Children and Young People said: “As we have all been reminded of recently with the terrible cases of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, the six-year-old boy murdered in Solihull, and Star Hobson the sixteen-month-old girl murdered in Bradford, children’s services are absolutely critical in protecting vulnerable children. As that case highlights we must never be complacent and need to be constantly vigilant for potential harm and new learning to improve further. Nonetheless I am heartened that Ofsted have praised this vital part of Lambeth’s children’s services and we will be working hard to improve them further.”
Merlin Joseph, Lambeth’s Strategic Director of Children’s Services said: “We want all our children and young people to be happy, healthy and have the best possible life. Making sure our ‘front door’ service is the best it can be is a big part of that, especially following the terrible cases of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson. We have been working hard to offer excellent services to families, children and young people in Lambeth and really welcome Ofsted’s feedback and comments regarding our ‘front door’ services. Such positive feedback from Ofsted is testament to the hard work, commitment and skill of Lambeth Children’s Services staff who, in the challenging context of the Covid-19 pandemic, have delivered our ambitious improvement programme at pace and to great effect.”