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Improvements in social work practice evident at Tower Hamlets

Effective action has been taken by leaders and managers at Tower Hamlets following the previous inspection and subsequent monitoring visits, Ofsted has said.

This has led to suitable improvements in the quality of social work practice for children in need of help and protection, the the sixth and final monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate for overall effectiveness in April 2017 found.

"Children at risk of immediate harm are responded to quickly. Strategy discussions take place promptly and result in appropriate outcomes. Thresholds are well embedded and are applied consistently in most cases, resulting in proportionate action to protect children. This is a significant improvement; previously too many children waited too long in harmful situations without adequate help and protection," said the report.

Many statutory assessments are of good quality, leading to better plans, but the quality of assessments is still not consistently good enough. While most social workers receive regular supervision, required actions lack clarity. Not all practice is routinely analysed by managers to ensure that work is making a sustained difference to vulnerable children’s lived experiences, it added.

Inspectors reviewed the local authority’s arrangements for children in need and those made subject to a child protection plan. Specifically, inspectors considered the quality of practice in the assessment and intervention (AI) and family support and protection (FSP) teams. They highlighted:

- The AI teams are well established and effective. Management oversight and direction are clear and purposeful in most cases. This could be further improved by reintroducing the previous 10-day performance check to prevent work drifting.

- Timely assessments completed by the AI teams are signed off by managers and passed swiftly to the FSP service, and are allocated immediately. Management oversight in the 10 FSP teams is regular but varies in quality.

- While inspectors saw good examples of analytical case supervision, ensuring that children’s plans progress swiftly, this has not yet been effective in reducing drift and delay for several children experiencing neglect.

- Social workers take the time to develop good relationships with children. The majority of staff understand children’s lived experiences and work diligently to make changes that help and protect children and their families.

- A stronger focus on performance management continuously drives service improvements.

- Senior leaders show a strong commitment to continued service improvement, and there is evidence of proactive learning from a range of external sources.

"A well-structured pathway is in place for newly qualified social workers to access the assessed and supported year in employment. Constant progress in workforce planning is reducing staff turnover, and manageable caseloads provide social workers with the opportunities to build trusting relationships with children. This approach has created an environment in which social workers feel listened to and supported to develop their skills and knowledge. Staff enjoy working in Tower Hamlets," the report concluded.

Monitoring visit to Tower Hamlets local authority children’s services

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