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Redbridge children's services are 'outstanding'

Children’s services in Redbridge have been judged to be outstanding after the appointment of the current director of children’s services in October 2016 led to the further strengthening of services following the previous inspection in 2016, when services were judged to be good.

The children's services inspection of the local authority found that the DCS is supported effectively by purposeful and informed political leaders and a stable and appropriately authoritative senior management team. Senior managers and leaders demonstrate relentless drive and ambition for children, which lead to the provision of consistently strong and highly effective services for them.

"This exceptional leadership is, in equal parts, enabling and challenging, promoting best practice and innovation. Staff enjoy working in Redbridge. They feel safe and well supported. This results in purposeful work to keep children at home safely whenever it is possible and safe to do so," said the report.

"This exemplary management has created conditions that afford workers the time, professional expertise and capacity to get to know children and young people well and exercise their professional expertise. This best practice secures positive experiences and good progress for children," the report added.

The experiences and progress of children who need help and protection are outstanding. The report highlights:

- The front door is a model of efficiency and excellence. It offers a service that is flexible, responsive and dynamic.

- The emergency duty service is highly effective, offering a well-supported service to children and their families out of hours.

- The needs of all children are responded to swiftly, whatever the level of risk.

- Where children are at high risk of harm, authoritative action ensures that the MASH social worker and the assessment duty team work simultaneously to provide an immediate and fully informed joint response.

- Children who require a statutory assessment receive a timely and sensitive service that is proportionate to need.

- Thorough and thoughtful assessments inform effective and appropriate plans for children.

- Disabled children receive an effective service that is appropriate for their needs.

The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers are good. The report says:

- Children in care in Redbridge benefit from a strong service that is creative and thoughtful.

- Children are visited regularly, including when they are placed at a distance, and purposeful work is undertaken with them.

- The relatively low number of children in care in Redbridge is a result of purposeful planning. There is a thorough understanding of children’s needs and a high degree of support in place to keep them at home, when it is safe to do so.

- Care proceedings are initiated when required and pre-proceedings and court work are of a consistently good quality.

- The fostering service is highly effective, is well run and has a positive impact on children’s lives.

- The exceptional virtual school team is well established and well respected.

The report states that the service for care leavers is currently provided through a commissioned partnership and provides a service that was considered to have strengths but ultimately to require improvement to be good in 2016. This service has been a priority area for development, with the local authority providing a consistent and careful consideration of the quality of service provision through the leaving care partnership board. Immediate improvements were implemented, including a separate annual event specifically to celebrate the achievements and successes of care leavers.

However, despite the investment and oversight provided by local authority senior managers, the day-to-day service for care leavers remains variable, with young people receiving different experiences and levels of support. Some casework practice is strong, but the service offered by the external provider has been hindered by changes in staffing and management within the contract.

The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families was judged to be outstanding. Inspectors stated:

- The DCS and his management team provide exemplary leadership that is highly effective in ensuring excellent progress and experiences for children.

- Leaders and senior managers demonstrate a high degree of self-awareness and exceptional ambition that lead to strong and continuously improving services.

- The DCS has very effectively engaged with partners, initiating projects and securing funding to innovate and build on service provision and quality of understanding in areas of known risk, including domestic abuse, radicalisation, exploitation, female genital mutilation and placement choice.

- Highly committed political support ensures that children are given a rightful strategic priority in the wider council.

- Corporate parenting in Redbridge is rigorous and ambitious.

- Managers have a strong grip on practice at all levels and management oversight of experiences for children in Redbridge is exceptional.

- Partnership working is strong, and the senior managers are collaborative and outward-looking.

- Staff retention and recruitment have historically been challenges that Redbridge has met well and continue to focus on.

- Manageable caseloads, supportive and stimulating case discussion and professionally empowered practice have resulted in a contented and skilled workforce that enjoys working in Redbridge.

"Despite the high level of performance and service provision, leaders and senior managers in Redbridge are relentlessly purposeful and strive to do more. There is a clear focus on how things could be even better, and they describe this as a ‘restless’ approach. It can be seen to best effect in their accurate self-evaluation, where the ambition is to always aim to do more than has already been achieved," the report concluded.

Ofsted recommends that in order to improve, Redbridge should address the consistency of the quality of practice for all care leavers.

London Borough of Redbridge
Inspection of children’s social care services

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