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Barnet care leavers' service steadily improving

The London Borough of Barnet has continued to focus steadily on developing and delivering improvements to the ‘onwards and upwards’ service for care leavers since the previous inspection, Ofsted has found.

Senior leaders and managers have worked effectively with relevant partner agencies, at both a strategic and operational level, to progress and sustain change across all areas of practice, found the sixth monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate in July 2017.

"Positive changes to the ‘onwards and upwards’office base have been developed with feedback and participation from young people. The centre is welcoming, and appropriately child-centred,enabling young people to ‘drop in’on a regular basis, either informally or to attend planned events and activities.Specialist services, including mental health counselling, education, training and employment advice, offer effective and timely support to care leavers,including some young peoplewho have been previously hard to engage," said the report, which focused on Barnet's care leavers’service.

Other initiatives are relatively new and have yet to fully demonstrate impact, for example the two new staff and two deputy managers who will be joining the servicein the near future, in order to increase management and staff capacity. The local authority is fully aware of the areas requiring further improvement and have relevant plans in place to address these.

Inspectors found that the quality of practice for care leavers is still too variable. Some young people experience high levels of consistent, regular and skilled planning to help and support them,from staff who know them well and have positive relationships with them. This is helping them to sustain and achieve positive outcomes and changes in their lives. However, for other young people, while pathway plans are in place, their voices and views are not clearly represented within these.

Inspectors highlighted:

- All staff positively reported about working in Barnet; they have seen helpful changes since the last inspection and feel well supported to work effectively with young people.

- Caseloads were reported to be manageable for most staff,although some were high, and for others had recently increased.

- The auditing framework and the quality of the case audits seen by inspectors continue to be detailed and identify most of the practice issues for children and young people.

- Performance management information is clear and demonstrates improved performance for key indicators,such as the number of young people who are in education,employment or training, which was at 67% in December 2018,compared to 44% at the time of the previous inspection.

- Transition planning for young people with disabilities is generally timely, although managers are aware that in complex situations,planning must start early enough to promptly address any changes in circumstances.

- Some young people receive strong support and interventions from their personal advisers.

- Specialist staff and effective partnership working are in place to deliver timely support to care leavers,including young people who have been hard to engage. For example, a specialist social worker works with unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people, providing specific expertise to support them.

However, transition planning for children in care into independence is variable. Management oversight and supervision is not consistent, reflective or regular. Inspectors found gaps inthe last year,wheresupervision had takenplace infrequently, and in some cases, social workers had been supervised by three different managersduring the year.

The quality of written pathway plans and needs assessments is inconsistent, Ofsted adds.

"In summary, the quality of social work practice is improvingsteadily, and developmentsin the serviceare helping to make a positive difference to outcomes for young people. Inspectors found appropriate support and help offered to care leavers, with some strong practice for some young people. However, there is more work to do to improve pathway planning, managerial oversight and supervision to ensure practice is consistent for all young people to achieve better outcomes," the report concludes.

Monitoring visit of Barnet local authority children’s services

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