Services for children in Havering have “significantly improved” since the previous inspection in 2016, according to Ofsted.
An inspection of children’s social care services found that leaders have demonstrated a determination to improve outcomes for children and this has been supported by purposeful corporate investment and commitment.
“Substantive improvements have been made in the provision of services for children who need help and protection, particularly in the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH),” said the report adding that leaders know their service well and have acted upon previous inspections.
It highlighted that good and effective support for children in care ensures that their outcomes improve. Health and education needs are well understood and appropriately prioritised for these children. The overwhelming majority of children in long-term foster care live in stable homes and make good progress. Services for care leavers have improved significantly since the last inspection.
The experiences and progress of children who need help and protection requires improvement.
- Children and families increasingly benefit from a good range of early help services.
- Social workers know their children well and visit them within timescales consistent with the children’s needs.
- When children are at risk of immediate harm, prompt action is taken to understand their circumstance and to protect them.
- When children in need, including those in need of protection, are identified as being at increased risk or need, they are mostly appropriately ‘stepped up’ to receive a higher level of intervention.
- Risks to children and young people in danger of going missing, child sexual exploitation or involvement in gang-related activities are not consistently well recognised or responded to.
- Management oversight of front-line practice is not consistently effective.
- The quality of child protection and child in need plans is variable and some are weak.
The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers is good.
The report highlighted that:
- The local authority makes concerted efforts to ensure that children remain with their families when this is safe for them.
- The majority of children have the benefit of timely and well-considered options for permanence.
- Once a decision has been taken that adoption is the right plan for children, permanence planning is effective.
- Children are well matched with adopters and sensitive preparation of children with careful introductions contributes to the sustainability of adoptive families.
- Children receive regular visits from their social workers.
The response to children who return home, including those under ‘placement with parents regulations’, is inconsistent.
The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families is good.
- Leaders in Havering have made significant progress in improving the quality of services for children since the previous inspection in 2016.
- The senior management team has a clear understanding of the strengths and areas for further developments of frontline practice.
- Opportunities for workforce learning are well established and influence how services are developed.
Frontline managers are not consistently sufficiently rigorous or challenging in monitoring and driving social work practice to ensure that services are consistently good.
The experiences of children are not yet systematically captured through case file audits.
“A joined-up approach to recruitment, retention and development is having a positive impact in terms of making Havering local authority a more attractive place to work. Senior leaders understand the importance of having a sufficiently skilled and stable workforce in order to drive improvement,” the report concluded.
The quality of management oversight of social work practice, including supervision and the quality of strategy discussions, core groups and children in need planning meetings both need to improve, as does planned support for children returning home from care.
The quality of children’s plans needs to improve so they are explicit about desired outcomes, the means by which these outcomes will be achieved and the timescales for completion. The consistency and quality of response to and interventions with vulnerable children at risk of child sexual exploitation, of involvement in gang-related activity or of going missing also needs focus.
Councillor Robert Benham, Cabinet Member for Children and Education at Havering, said: “I’m proud Ofsted has been able to recognise the continued hard work and dedication of our social care workforce to deliver purposeful direct work with children and families. The ‘Good’ Ofsted rating also reinforces the positive work undertaken by Havering Children’s Services to co-produce new ways of working with young people.
“Since the last the inspection the service was successfully awarded £2.2 million from the Department for Education Innovation Fund. This fund has allowed us to transform services right across the team as well as supporting an enhanced foster carer programme which supports some of the borough’s most vulnerable children.
“Being able to provide positive and effective support for children in need and in care, helps to ensure their outcomes improve as they transition to independence,” he added.