Effective action taken by leaders and managers at Tower Hamlets following the August monitoring visit has led to considerable improvements in the quality of social work practice for children in care, Ofsted has said.
Permanence planning for those children who are unable to live safely with their birth parents is being progressed more quickly. All permanence options, including special guardianship orders and adoption, are beginning to be considered simultaneously.
"Children who leave care in Tower Hamlets benefit from advice and support from a stable and highly committed group of personal advisers, social workers and managers, who know them well. Senior managers accept that their ambitious plans to reconfigure the care leavers’ service need to progress more quickly," said the report.
This was the fifth monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate for overall effectiveness in April 2017. Inspectors evaluated the quality of care planning for children in care, in particular the achievement of timely permanence for children who are unable to live with their birth parents. They assessed progress since the visit in August 2018, focusing on areas of practice that required significant improvement.
- For those children who become looked after, decision-making is timely.
- The majority of children in care now have an up-to-date assessment. This is a substantial improvement from the previous monitoring visit, when 180 children did not have a current assessment of their needs.
- Management oversight is regular, and inspectors found some good examples of analytical case supervision to ensure that children’s plans progress effectively.
- Performance management has been enhanced with the introduction of ‘practice weeks’.
- Managers and personal advisers work diligently to advocate on behalf of care leavers.
- Personal advisers know young people well and have a good understanding of their individual needs and circumstances.
- Pathway plans are thorough and up to date and directly involve young people.
- Better quality and suitable accommodation for care leavers is being recommissioned.
The report notes that the introduction of a ‘through-care service’, co-located with other professionals for children aged 14 to 25, is intended to ensure that these children achieve well as young adults.
However, the report says that the pace of these changes needs to accelerate.
It also warns that in the last quarter, an increasing number of younger children have entered care in an emergency. In a minority of these cases, young children have remained in harmful situations for too long. Senior and middle managers are aware that they need to do more to sustain progress in protecting neglected children who are at risk of harm.
Further work is needed to ensure that care plans are recorded clearly and that older children in care are involved in compiling their individual plans.
However, the report concludes: "Staff described to inspectors a positive change in the culture within the service. Morale is good and social workers in the children in care service have manageable caseloads. They report that they are well supported, and they have welcomed the tri-weekly morning team meetings that focus on their practice. Bespoke training, commissioned since August, and additional management capacity, have helped to improve the quality of assessments."