Senior leaders at Enfield, with strong corporate and cross-party political support, have worked effectively to strengthen and improve service provision, Ofsted has reported.
Prior to the last focused visit in September 2018, senior leaders had appropriately identified capacity issues and high caseloads in some aspects of the service and had agreed additional staffing.
Prompt recruitment activity, underpinned by significant investment, has been made to address the capacity issues and improve the quality of practice in the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) and frontline teams.
"Practice lead positions introduced in the autumn of 2018 are improving services and the skills and knowledge of frontline staff and managers effectively," said the report.
However, practice remains variable within the MASH and for some children in need, the report warned. Further work is required to ensure consistency in services for children missing from home and for children living in private fostering arrangements. Leaders are aware of the need to improve the consistency of practice and are appropriately targeting resources and training to continue to improve services and outcomes for children in Enfield.
The experiences and progress of children who need help and protection are good. Inspectors highlighted:
- Children and families benefit from an effective early help offer in Enfield based on a family resilience model.
- Enfield’s children’s centres work effectively as hubs, allowing families to experience a seamless service, underpinned by a well-embedded social work model of practice.
- The additional management oversight in the MASH has resulted in the vast majority of children receiving an effective, timely multi-agency response to their needs.
- The majority of child protection enquiries are timely and demonstrate multi-agency information-sharing to underpin appropriate decision-making, although recording is not yet consistently sharp or time bounded to allow progress to be monitored within children’s timescales.
- The vast majority of assessments demonstrate a good understanding of individual children’s needs, with clear evidence that children are seen and seen alone, as appropriate, to inform the assessment.
- Disabled children benefit from highly effective, outstanding services in Enfield, delivered by knowledgeable, passionate social workers and managers with high aspirations for their children.
The report said that senior managers have undertaken a comprehensive audit of MASH cases. They have increased management capacity and quality assurance support to the MASH and safeguarding services, to further strengthen decision-making and practice.
However, practice is not yet consistent and a minority of the cases seen during inspection highlighted some variability in the initial threshold decisions applied. In a very small minority of cases seen, children’s referrals had not been progressed to a strategy discussion but had progressed to assessments. Where strategy discussions had occurred, a minority of cases were not timely and the rationale for actions to be taken was not always consistently recorded.
Social workers receive regular supervision and feel well supported. However, the quality of supervision records does not always do justice to the quality of supervision reported by social workers.
The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers is good. Inspectors highlighted in particular:
- Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children benefit from effective multi-agency practice to ensure that their needs are assessed and responded to.
- When children are placed at some distance from their home, clear notification work takes place to ensure that host authorities are informed.
- Children in care benefit from regularly monitoring of their plans by IROs at timely reviews, with oversight midway through, although this is not yet consistently evidenced on all children’s files.
- Social workers have a thorough understanding of the children they work with, and are passionate about improving outcomes for them.
- Careful consideration is given to the diverse needs of children and young people, and this is progressed effectively into social workers’ practice and decision-making.
- Children in care make good progress in early years and primary education, and especially by the end of key stage 2.
- Relationships for brothers and sisters are supported and understood well by practitioners.
- Enfield has effective fostering and adoption services, which are overseen by highly experienced, long-standing, child-focused leaders and managers.
- The adoption of older children is a strength.
- The majority of care leavers benefit from the provision of timely support by workers who know them well and are aspirational for them.
The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families is good. Inspectors found:
- Senior leaders know their services and have a clear understanding of the current strengths and areas for further development.
- Strong, corporate and cross-party political support and carefully targeted investment have enabled leaders to manage increasing demand and target areas for development, with resources such as the introduction of increasingly effective practice leads to ensure that children’s needs are a top priority in Enfield.
- Mature, robust relationships with a range of partners have resulted in improvements in effective multi-agency safeguarding at an operational and strategic level, and these are being built on further.
- Senior leaders have a clear, dedicated focus on staff recruitment and retention, which has resulted in very positive effects on the stability of the workforce, with reducing rates of agency staff.
- A well-established ‘grow your own’ programme ensures that cohorts of students and newly qualified social workers are well supported by a comprehensive learning and development programme.
- Staff in Enfield speak positively about proactive, visible, supportive managers, the introduction of paid sabbaticals after three years’ service and the training available, triangulated by the annual cultural survey. As a result, social workers’ morale is high, and they enjoy working in Enfield.
Ofsted states that the quality of plans for children in need, return home interviews for children missing from home and health information for care leavers need improvement.
Finally, private fostering responses also needs improving, including timely statutory checks and regular visits to ensure that children live in safe arrangements to meet their needs.