The London Borough of Barnet has maintained a consistent and strong focus on improving services and the quality of social work practice, Ofsted has found.
In the fourth monitoring visit of the authority since it was rated as inadequate in July 2017, Ofsted said some changes and improvements are now well established, such as the quality assurance processes and foster carer recruitment.
Other changes are more recent or new, such as arrangements for connected carers, and require further consolidation.
"The workforce is now more stable and caseloads are manageable. This is enabling social workers to build better relationships with children and to get to know them better," said the report. "Staff morale is good, with new social workers joining Barnet as a positive choice, and existing social workers who met inspectors also welcoming the improvements being made."
During this visit, inspectors reviewed the progress made for children looked after across a range of teams, including the children in care teams and the intervention and planning teams.
- Inspectors found that supervision and management oversight is evident on case files, but this is not always regular, and, in some cases, lacked reflection and challenge.
- Quality assurance processes are a strength. The use of auditing is well established, with more than a third of all children in care cases having been subject to a detailed audit since January 2018.
- Child-centred practice is beginning to embed, and this is making a positive difference to the quality of social work practice and the understanding of children’s lived experiences, informed by their views.
- Direct work with children is improving and becoming more purposeful, although it is not yet consistently occurring for all children.
- The quality of social work practice with children’s families and connected carers remains inconsistent.
- Assessments for children in care are variable in quality.
- Placement stability and choices of placements for children are improving.
"In summary, this monitoring visit has found that an appropriately considered and steady pace of change in the last year has begun to establish improved social work practice for children looked after," said the report.
"Senior leaders are aware that improvements are still inconsistent and require further consolidation and focus across all teams before practice is of a good standard," it concluded.
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