Westminster rated as outstanding by Ofsted

Excellent services for vulnerable children in Westminster result in positive and enduring change for children and families, Ofsted has said.

Provision for care leavers and provision for children in need of help and protection have developed further since the last inspection, and they are both outstanding.

“Collaborative, adaptable and distributive leadership continually develops and builds a research- and learning based practice model. Leaders and senior managers work together highly effectively within a bi-borough approach to provide excellent strategic and some shared operational services with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and also to a lesser extent with the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham,” said the report.

Ofsted praised the “highly skilled, experienced social workers” and other frontline practitioners who provide “sensitive and innovative child-centred interventions”. parents receive “imaginative and sensitive services,” it added.

The experiences and progress of children who need help and protection are outstanding. Ofsted said:

– The quality of work is exceptionally high, strongly focused on improving children’s circumstances and highly empowering and enabling for parents and carers.

– Excellent early help services, which are carefully targeted, innovative and continually evolving, help families with a wide range of needs, including very complex difficulties.

– An intensive family support service provides a trauma-based and attachment informed model of intervention which repairs many damaged family relationships.

– Partner agencies have a shared understanding of thresholds, and contacts to the front door are meticulously managed.

– Children who go missing are seen promptly and are asked who they would prefer to undertake their return home conversations.

– Responses to children at immediate risk of harm are timely and effective.

– Children’s plans across the spectrum of services, from early help to children in need, and children in need of protection, are comprehensive and detailed.

– Social work practice with disabled children and their families is consistently effective.

– Social workers have manageable caseloads, regular supervision and easy access to clinical support.

The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers was judged as outstanding. Ofsted said:

– Children in care receive exceptionally high-quality services.

– The rapidly changing profile of children in care is adeptly predicted through pre-emptive planning, ensuring that their needs are successfully anticipated and addressed.

– The connected persons’ service is highly professional.

– Effective corporate and individual planning for children in care is apparent through very low rates of placement breakdowns.

– Children’s care plans are detailed and are routinely updated following their regular looked after reviews.

– The fostering service, shared across the three boroughs, efficiently recruits potential carers who can meet the complex needs of children.

– High-quality educational provision, and good outcomes achieved by many children in care, are supported by a strong and effective virtual school.

– Children’s physical, emotional and mental health needs are closely monitored and addressed.

– Pathway plans for young people leaving care are regularly updated with them.

– Personal advisers and social workers work conscientiously with young people leaving care, building nurturing, significant relationships with them.

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

– Senior leaders and managers work collaboratively and intelligently, providing exemplary services to vulnerable children across the entire service spectrum, from early help to adoption and leaving care.

– Strategic and corporate arrangements are harmonious and closely aligned, providing a clear understanding and shared approach to prioritising and meeting children’s needs.

– Resources across partnerships are harnessed through an integrated leadership team, which knits services together seamlessly.

– An important impact of these bold and innovative approaches is that fewer children become the subject of more serious, statutory social work interventions.

– Experienced and highly qualified social workers and other frontline staff value the considerable investment in their professional development and demonstrate their expertise in sophisticated and transformative direct work with children and their families.

– Senior managers and leaders have an accurate, balanced and reflective self-assessment of their services.

– Westminster is a progressive, outward-looking children’s service that welcomes peer reviews and external evaluations.

– Performance management is rigorous. Senior managers regularly probe and investigate variances and emerging concerns.

“Most social workers in Westminster have five or more years of post-qualifying experience. Annual turnover rates are relatively low, and this core of experienced, stable social workers is a critical element of a skilled, highly trained frontline workforce. Social workers are proud to work in Westminster,” said the report.

“They have manageable caseloads and highly skilled, reflective supervision and clinical support. They know their children and families very well, and enthusiastically and eloquently described the exemplary work with children that they routinely undertake,” the report concluded.

The only way in which Westminster children’s services can improve is to work on the formal matching and panel approval of adolescents in long-term foster homes, Ofsted concluded.

City of Westminster
Inspection of children’s social care services

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