The London Borough of Haringey requires improvement to be good, Ofsted has said.
However, while children, young people and their carers do not consistently receive a good service, this is improving. Staff and managers are ambitious for children and young people and are tenacious in their efforts to help and support them.
"The appointment of a permanent director of children services in April 2018 has led to a step change in the pace and focus in addressing practice deficits. This is beginning to have a positive impact. Leaders know their services well and are appropriately acting on the key areas for development found by inspectors," said the report.
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) since the joint area targeted inspection (JTAI) on neglect in December 2017. However, there has been insufficient focus on the quality of practice in the disabled children’s team, where assessments are not up to date and plans are insufficiently child-focused.
In terms of the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection, which requires improvement to be good, inspectors found:
- The coordination of early help services is under developed.
- Actions taken following the JTAI, including well-focused corporate investment and commitment, have led to well-established systems in the MASH to ensure that children receive a timely and appropriate response to concerns.
- Comprehensive and timely assessments with helpful analysis form the basis of subsequent work and planning.
- Child in need and child protection plans appropriately consider the main issues for children and their families, however, they are not always detailed or specific enough about the actions required to improve outcomes for children.
- The Public Law Outline (PLO) process is not used consistently well to progress work with children who may require legal steps to ensure that they are safe. Managers are aware of deficiencies in the effective application of the PLO process.
- Management oversight and supervision of casework is variable in frequency, quality and effectiveness.
- Children and young people who are subject to, or at risk of, criminal exploitation, child sexual exploitation and gang affiliation are appropriately protected and supported by their social workers.
- However, arrangements to support and understand episodes where children go missing are under developed and poorly resourced.
Regarding the experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers which requires improvement to be good, Ofsted highlighted:
- Threshold decisions for children coming into care are appropriate and timely in the majority of cases.
- Children with a plan to return home are supported appropriately by social workers and other professionals to ensure that children are safe and thriving.
- Assessments of children’s needs are not updated in a timely fashion when their circumstances change.
- Children’s care plans cover the relevant broad issues but are not detailed or specific enough.
- Social workers sensitively explore children’s histories in the child’s timeframe, to ensure that they can understand their pasts.
- Services for care leavers have improved since the last inspection and are now a significant strength.
The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families also requires improvement to be good. Ofsted said:
- A succession of changes in the senior leadership team since the time of the previous inspection in 2014 have hampered the progress in improving key areas of practice.
- There is clear political and wider partnership priority to focus on children and families in Haringey.
- Inspectors were impressed with the committed and capable staff who they met during the inspection.
- Local strategic multi-agency arrangements to manage and keep abreast of the complex risks of gangs, violence and criminal exploitation of children are under developed.
- There is insufficient focus on the impact of the service to improve all children’s outcomes.
- Through the provision of additional capacity to progress work and plans for children, there has been a gradual reduction in caseloads.
- There is currently no collated data on the skills and experience of the workforce.
Ofsted makes a number of recommendations in order to improve social work practice. The London Borough of Haringey should use the assessment of children’s needs when their circumstances change in order to inform plans. Child-focused plans need work, particularly in the disabled children's team, where the understanding of thresholds when risks escalate also needs to improve.
There needs to be timely and effective permanence planning for all children in care, including effective challenge brought by independent reviewing officers.
Haringey should ensure placement sufficiency for vulnerable adolescents and address the quality and timeliness of case recording, including the recording of management decision-making.
The quality of audits needs work to inform practice and drive practice improvements and Haringey should address the strategic partnership response to criminally exploited children.
The offer and take-up of return home interviews and the subsequent use of intelligence to inform individual children’s plans and wider partnership activity should be prioritised as should pathways to private fostering.