There have been continued improvements in the quality of practice for children in the London Borough of Sutton, despite senior leadership changes, Ofsted has said.
A recent restructure, leading to the integration of early help and children’s social care, with a strong focus on early intervention and prevention, is proving to be effective in reducing risks to children, the inspection found.
“Senior leaders and managers have a clear vision for their services and know what still needs to be improved,” said the report.
Inspectors evaluated the local authority's arrangements for the protection of vulnerable adolescents.
- A strong early intervention and prevention approach, using restorative practice, is helping to identify vulnerable adolescents early.
- Vulnerable adolescents benefit from the co-location of youth offending with targeted youth and leaving care services.
- Effective out-of-hours service.
- Social workers and practitioners are knowledgeable and passionate about the children they work with.
Management oversight and supervision is largely effective, and clear case direction appropriately progresses children’s plans.
- Inspectors found high-quality children’s homes provision for very vulnerable adolescents who were needing to be placed out of borough for their protection.
- The identification of vulnerable adolescents at risk of sexual exploitation is established and effective.
- Arrangements and practices for responding to radicalisation and female genital mutilation are appropriate and timely.
- Leaders and managers are responsive to practice issues.
- Quality assurance systems are developing.
“Senior leaders have invested in workforce developments which are increasingly successful in attracting staff. Vacancy levels are reducing, and staff report that they enjoy working for the authority,” said the report.
“Caseloads are regularly monitored to identify pressure points, and staff report that they are mostly manageable. This means that practitioners have capacity to build trusting relationships with children and young people,” it added.
In order to improve social work practice, Sutton should focus on improving return home interviews as they are not consistently informing safety planning for children. Further, the assessment of risk is fragmented, which means that the wider context of harm in relation to gangs and criminal exploitation is not always well understood or sufficiently considered in safety planning.
Finally, when children in care move home or are not in education, it takes too long for their educational needs to be met and this needs to be addressed, Ofsted concluded.