Significant improvements in the quality of social work practice for children in Brent since the last Ofsted inspection have been highlighted by the inspectorate.
The care for children and care leavers is outstanding, Ofsted said, adding that firm foundations are now in place to facilitate and enable good or better social work to flourish.
“Senior leaders recognise and prioritise the needs of children and young people,” said the report. “They focus their attention on the things that matter and inspire staff to perform well.”
Brent children’s services was rated as ‘good’ for overall effectiveness, while the experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers was rated ‘outstanding,’ the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families was rated as ‘good’ and ‘the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection’ was rated as ‘requiring improvement’.
In relation to child protection, the report highlighted that:
- The multicultural demographic of Brent presents complex challenges for children’s social care. The vast majority of children and families in the borough come from diverse backgrounds, cultures and nationalities. There are 150 different languages spoken.
- Too many contacts are made to the Brent Family Front Door requesting a statutory assessment, because not enough partner agencies complete early help assessments and many of which are unnecessary.
- The BFFD is a robust multi-agency safeguarding hub that makes good decisions about levels of risk and need. Effective screening and prioritisation of children’s cases are driving timely decision-making.
- The distinct needs and vulnerabilities of adolescents are well understood by senior managers.
- Effective gang intervention programmes have been commissioned to work with children and young people on the periphery of gangs.
- Although the numbers of children and young people at risk of radicalisation are low, a robust process ensures that they are protected.
- Communication with children and young people is a particular strength.
The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers is outstanding and inspectors highlighted:
- Children’s outcomes significantly improve when they become children in care.
- Consideration of kinship care is particularly strong. Social workers go to great lengths to identify safe family members with whom children can live.
- Once a decision has been taken that adoption is the right plan for permanence, planning is highly effective.
- Great importance is given to life-story work.
- Excellent support is available for children and young people to help them achieve stability in their lives.
- Managers pay close scrutiny to ensuring contact with care leavers is meaningful and regular.
- Professionals work together effectively to keep care leavers safe and reduce risk, but this is not always well reflected in written plans.
- Managers invest in opportunities to promote training and employment for care leavers.
The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families is good. The report noted:
- Strong leadership at a political level and throughout the council has prioritised support and care for children in care and care leavers.
- There are solid and mature relationships with partner agencies.
- Senior leaders are effective at recognising service areas that require improvement.
- Corporate parenting is a real strength for the local authority.
- Senior leaders proactively listen to the views of families, children, staff and partner agencies.
- Senior leaders recognise that the provision of high-quality social work services relies upon a well-trained, supported and motivated workforce and they have been successful in attracting high-quality managers and social workers.
“Since the last inspection, considerable investment and attention has been given to creating the foundations and structures for children’s services to improve,” the report concluded.
Ofsted recommends that Brent children’s services prioritises the response when children and young people go missing from school.
Escalation to pre-proceedings where children’s circumstances do not improve quickly enough, including the application of statutory guidance in kinship placements and Brent should focus on this to improve. Furthermore, procedures should always follow statutory guidance and comply with the council’s own policies.
The quality of case recording and supervision, for example the quality of recording by the local authority designated officer and supervision records for the children with disabilities team also needs strengthening.
Cllr Mili Patel, Brent Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Safeguarding, Early Help and Social Care, said: “As a council we are one hundred per cent committed to ensuring that every young person in Brent has the best start in life possible, and this report, together with Brent’s highest-ever Ofsted rating, is testament to what we have achieved in recent years.
“We have already started addressing the areas identified by for improvement and I am wholly confident that further progress will continue to be made in the coming months.”