A report on the visit to Lambeth’s children’s services on April 9 and 10 identified a number of positives – including the “robust” senior leadership, improvements in the quality of “permanence planning”, along with tangible improvements in the adoption service, which had been judged inadequate at the last inspection in 2018.
Inspectors said senior managers made increasingly good use of data and audits to give them a good understanding of the quality of service, and they had developed clear and realistic action plans to achieve the necessary improvements. Social workers are very positive about working in Lambeth and have good access to training.
However, the report also identified a number of areas for improvement. It said Lambeth’s senior managers acknowledged that there was still “a considerable amount of work” to be done to ensure effective and timely permanence planning – the process of assessing and preparing a child for long-term care.
Inspectors evaluated the quality of care planning for children in care and the timeliness of permanence arrangements for children who are unable to live with their birth parents.
They considered a range of evidence was considered during the visit, including discussions with social workers and their managers, and individual children’s case files. Inspectors also met independent reviewing officers (IROs) and managers who are involved in public law outline planning for those children who meet the threshold for care proceedings. They reviewed the quality of support available to foster carers, and evaluated performance information and quality assurance arrangements, and the effectiveness of supervision, management oversight and support to frontline social work staff.
In a letter confirming the findings of the visit, Her Majesty’s Inspector Andy Whippey said: “Senior leadership in Lambeth is robust and there is a determination to improve outcomes for children and young people in the care of the local authority. The quality of permanence planning is improving. Children are seen regularly, and some are benefiting from more timely intervention.
“However, senior managers recognise that there is still a considerable amount of work to do to ensure effective and timely permanence planning for all children and young people.”
The report lists a number of areas that need to improve in this area of social work practice, including early permanence planning, oversight of permanence planning and the support offered to foster carers.
Cllr Jennifer Brathwaite, Deputy Leader of the Council (Children and Young People), said: “We’re pleased that Ofsted has recognised the improvements we have made in adoption services for Lambeth’s children and young people in the last few months. The wide-ranging changes we have put in place are making a positive difference to the lives of the children in our care.
“The positive feedback in this report 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.
“However, we also acknowledge the areas for improvement identified in this report, and we’ve already begun planning how we’re going to address these in order to provide the top-class service that our children and young people deserve.”