A new and highly experienced senior leadership team has driven a rapid and sustained pace of improvement at the London Borough of Bromley, according to Ofsted.
In the last inspection in 2016, children’s services were judged to be inadequate, but the new leadership team has driven change, supported by a whole-council investment in children’s services.
"This has led to vastly improved services for children and families," said the report. "The executive director and his team, together with strong corporate support from members, have ensured an unwavering focus on continuous improvement."
"Staff at every level have high aspirations for the children who receive services in Bromley," it added.
The experiences and progress of children who need help and protection, the experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers and overall effectiveness were all rated good and the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families was rated outstanding.
In terms of children who need help and protection, Ofsted noted:
- Children in need of help and protection in Bromley now receive a timely and effective response.
- The comprehensive early help offer is a significant strength.
- The out-of-hours service has greatly improved since the last inspection.
- Children benefit from assessments that include good consideration and engagement of parents and extended family, even those at a distance.
- Direct work with children has become a significant strength in Bromley.
- Effective action has been taken to improve the quality of children’s plans.
For children in care and care leavers are, inspectors highlighted:
- Timely and well-considered decisions are made when children need to come into care.
- Social workers visit children in care very regularly and in accordance with their presenting risks and needs.
- Assessments and plans for children in care are routinely updated and reflect changes in children’s circumstances.
- Children’s emotional and mental health needs are well understood and met.
- Children receive high-quality care from their foster carers, who are assessed and supported effectively.
- Permanence planning is understood and pursued with rigour.
In terms of the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families, the report stated:
- Partner engagement has been re-invigorated by the chair of the Local Safeguarding Children Board, who is determined and ambitious for children.
- Senior managers have a detailed knowledge of their services and the local community.
- The local authority is now a highly committed corporate parent.
- Highly effective quality assurance arrangements drive a cycle of continuous improvement in practice, and there is now a strong focus on outcomes and child-centred social work.
- Senior managers have created a culture of high challenge and high support, enabling staff to be confident in their work, and this results in children experiencing good-quality social work and improved outcomes.
- Senior managers and leaders actively listen to residents and service users and use feedback to improve services.
"Senior leaders have created an outward-facing organisation that embraces innovation and practice in order to enhance its work with children. Staff who spoke to inspectors are inspired by their leaders and managers and believe in Bromley’s vision and ambition. This is making a profound difference to improving the lives of children in Bromley," the report concluded.
Bromley should improve the take-up of return home interviews and the effective use of information to identify and mitigate emerging risks. Information provided to homeless 16-and 17-year-olds also needs to improve so that they understand the options available to them.
A further focus for Bromley should be school attendance levels and educational progress for secondary-aged children in care and the arrangements for care leavers to have access to their health history, and support to care leavers to develop emotional resilience.