Ofsted rates Greenwich as ‘good’

The good quality of work with children and their families in receipt of services at Greenwich has been sustained and improved, Ofsted has said.

Senior managers and leaders continue to demonstrate strong drive and ambition for children and they have an accurate and realistic understanding of the strengths and areas for development. They use this knowledge effectively to continually improve services. Political leaders have invested well to ensure that children’s needs are prioritised.

“Children who need help and protection receive a service that is timely and of good quality. Assessments and plans show careful consideration of the views of children and their families. Multi-agency working is well developed and contributes to children making good progress,” said the report.

Ofsted rated Greenwich ‘good’ for overall effectiveness.

In terms of the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection, which was rated ‘good’, inspectors highlighted:

– Children and families benefit from a good early help offer and have access to a broad range of preventive and targeted services.

– The Greenwich multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) provides an effective and timely response to contacts by professionals and members of the public, to ensure that children’s needs are met at the earliest opportunity.

– When children are at risk of immediate harm, prompt action is taken to understand their circumstances and to protect them.

– The vast majority of assessments are timely, comprehensive and of good quality. Children’s views are taken into account and inform assessment outcomes.

– When children in need, including those in need of protection, are identified as being at increased risk or need, the level of intervention is increased accordingly.

– Pre-proceedings activity, under the public law outline, is increasingly used when child protection plans are not effective in reducing risks to children.

– Disabled children have access to a wide range of specialist services to meet their complex needs.

– Staff take effective action to reduce risks to children who are considered highly vulnerable and at risk of exploitation.

– The children missing education team has appropriate protocols in place to ensure that children missing education are found.

– Children known to be living in private fostering arrangements are safeguarded effectively.

– Young people who are aged 16 and 17 and at risk of homelessness receive timely and effective support.

However, the quality of child in need and child protection plans is variable. In a minority of plans, the lack of clarity regarding the actions required makes it difficult for parents to understand what they need to do differently to improve their children’s experiences, and for professionals to establish whether progress is being made and risks are reducing. Case records do not consistently evidence progress made against plans, and this is hampered by the lack of specific, measurable and time-limited actions.

Case recording does not always reflect the good quality of the work being undertaken. Supervision varies in frequency and quality, and recording does not consistently evidence reflection, analysis or rigour to drive and monitor children’s progress against their plans.

While there is an effective response when children go missing from home, managers are aware that the quality and timeliness of return home interviews are not yet consistently good enough. Information from return home interviews is used effectively to inform individual risk assessments, and aggregated information informs the identification of wider risks to children.

The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers is good. The report said:

– Social workers make concerted efforts to ensure that children remain with their families when this is safe for them.

– Children are looked after within their extended birth family whenever possible.

– Adoption is routinely considered at an early stage for those children unable to live with their birth or extended families.

– The vast majority of children and young people benefit from living in a wide range of placement arrangements with their brothers and sisters, if appropriate, and in placements that meets their needs.

– Social workers recognise and respond well to children in care who are vulnerable to exploitation.

– The health needs of children in care are identified well and are reflected in their care plans.

– Foster carers are recruited, assessed and approved within appropriate timescales.

– Children benefit from support from advocates to help them to share their views in reviews or to make complaints about the service that they receive.

– Relationships between care leavers and their personal advisers are strong.

– Care leavers benefit from a wide range of accommodation, and there is good use of ‘staying put’ arrangements, including for young adults in their twenties.

However, many children placed with long-term carers have not been formally matched. This means that there has been no formal assessment of the carers’ ability to meet the needs of the children in the longer term, or for children and carers to experience the emotional security of knowing that these arrangements are permanent. Plans are in place to address this, but the issue has been known for some time and progress has been slow.

While effective life-story work is undertaken with children who are matched with adoptive parents. However, direct work with other children in care to help them to understand their life stories and experiences is not consistently evident on their records.

While IROs undertake timely reviews of children in almost all cases, they are not consistently ensuring that decisions are evident on children’s records. Consequently, some care plans for children are not being updated to reflect children’s current circumstances. In addition, IROs are not consistently reviewing the progress of care plans for children or contacting them if there are significant changes between reviews.

The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families is good. Ofsted said:

– Senior managers and elected members have continued to ensure that children in Greenwich receive a good service, and they have acted effectively to build on the findings of the previous inspection in 2016.

– Strong governance arrangements ensure effective prioritisation to improve well-being, safety and positive experiences for children.

– Partnerships at both strategic and operational levels are strong.

– Senior managers are ambitious for children and strive for continuous improvement. They actively seek out innovation and learning opportunities.

– The senior management team has a clear understanding of the strengths and areas for further development in frontline practice.

– Performance management systems capture a wide range of relevant data across the organisation. This information not only provides senior managers with aggregated data across the service, but also provides team-level data, which enables team and service managers to identify any emerging performance shortfalls in their area of responsibility, and to respond accordingly.

– Senior managers undertake a high number of relevant audits relating to a wide range of service delivery.

– Senior managers undertake a high number of relevant audits relating to a wide range of service delivery.

– Staff turnover is low and there is little use of agency staff. A strong training and development programme and flexible promotion opportunities mean that many staff see their careers developing positively over a period of time in Greenwich.

– Opportunities for workforce learning are well established and influence how services are developed. Learning from serious case reviews and learning reviews is established and well publicised, to help to inform current social work practice.
Ofsted recommends that Greenwich improves the clarity of actions in plans for children and care leavers and the frequency, recording and quality of supervision of frontline practice.

Matching arrangements for children in long-term foster care needs addressing and there should be better oversight of children’s care plans by independent reviewing officers (IROs) between reviews.

Royal Borough of Greenwich – Inspection of children’s social care services

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