Wandsworth council has been praised for making progress in its services for care leavers by Ofsted.
A monitoring visit of the London Borough of Wandsworth by the inspectorate found made ‘purposeful and well-targeted progress’ in improving services for its care leavers.
“The quality of work in most areas has started to improve very recently. Senior leaders now need to increase the momentum of improvement so that good-quality practice is achieved as a matter of routine,” said the report of the sixth monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate in December 2015.
The visit concentrated on progress made in care leavers’ services. Senior leaders have made progress on all of the recommendations regarding the care leavers’ service that were made at the last inspection.
Well-targeted improvement measures are now beginning to contribute to better outcomes for care leavers in most areas, the report found.
The care leavers’ service had previously been commissioned externally but, as improvements were not sustained, the service was transferred to local authority management in September 2017.
The changes that have since been are having a positive impact on the service. These include a permanent increase in the number of personal advisers by two full-time equivalents to 13 and a permanent increase in the number of education, employment and training Connexions workers from one full-time equivalent to three.
“As a result, there has been a reduction in caseload numbers and this is leading to a better quality of engagement and direct work with young people,” said inspectors.
Management oversight of cases has received particular attention since the service came back in-house, the report found, and the emphasis on supervision has been supported by a newly revised supervision template, to ensure that managers focus on outcomes for young people.
However, inspectors warn that the quality of case recording is too variable and in most cases seen, it was not detailed or specific enough. While personal advisers are able to articulate clearly the individual needs of the young people with whom they work, this knowledge is not always captured effectively in case records.
Care leavers in Wandsworth are not yet receiving timely support to start preparing them for independence, although senior managers have identified this and are implementing arrangements to ensure that young people who are aged 16 are allocated a personal adviser to work alongside their social worker.
The number of young people in ‘Staying Put’ arrangements has increased very slightly, but continues to be low. ‘Staying Put’ is not sufficiently promoted by professionals, inspectors found.
The report highlighted that 61% of care leavers were in education, employment or training at October 2017 compared with 44% at the time of the inspection in 2015.
Most care leavers said that they feel well supported, and spoke energetically and passionately about the overall improvements that have been made to their service.
Senior managers have strengthened arrangements considerably to ensure that care leavers have access to sufficient, suitable and safe accommodation. Effective partnership arrangements are in place between the housing department and the care leavers’ service, Future First, and there is a clear corporate commitment to sustaining this offer, the report concludes.