Following a thorough analysis of the weaknesses in practice, the Director of Children's Services in Haringey, along with her assistant director, are working determinedly to systematically improve services for their most vulnerable residents.
A focused visit by Ofsted to the London Borough of Haringey found that senior managers and leaders have an accurate and comprehensive understanding of the complex demands presented by a highly mobile and diverse local community in an inner-London borough with high levels of need. The DCS has taken a carefully considered and mature approach to achieving sustainable change.
"Leaders are tackling staff competence issues and helping social workers and their managers develop the requisite skills to take forward essential improvements more quickly. They are establishing strong foundations to ensure that the children supported across all teams consistently benefit from services that make a difference to their lives," said the report.
- Contacts and referrals for children who are in need or at risk are managed promptly in the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH).
- Timescales for decisions being made are good and workers in the MASH are clear about their roles and responsibilities.
- The co-location of a social work-qualified early help team manager and dedicated social worker based in the MASH ‘early help hub’ is a significant strength.
- Although it has only been in operation since August 2019, children who do not require a statutory service benefit from the immediate help given, and this is preventing concerns from escalating.
- Threshold decisions made by appropriately qualified early help staff mean that concerns are better understood, and, as a result, children receive the right level of help and protection at the right time.
- Multi-agency strategy meetings are timely and are well attended by a range of professionals. They are well supported by dedicated administrators, are convened quickly and result in swift actions and plans.
- Children benefit from timely assessments that demonstrate a good grasp and overview of many of the issues affecting them. Careful account is taken of family history, and efforts are made to understand the impact of mental illness, poverty and domestic abuse.
- Social workers report that they are well supported by accessible and visible managers who sit alongside teams. These managers are constantly available to talk about children and debrief staff when they return from visits to families.
- Services to help and protect young people who are vulnerable to exploitation and serious violence in Haringey are beginning to improve. Underpinning the local authority’s work is an imaginative multi-agency approach that requires further development.
- Young people can access a wide range of targeted services, including those to promote psychological and sexual health.
- Teachers and social workers have benefited from targeted training, enabling them to identify and act to protect exploited young people sooner.
- Scrutiny of the daily performance information in the MASH and assessment teams ensures that dips in timeliness of statutory visits or completion of key tasks are quickly identified and addressed appropriately at team and individual level.
More work is needed to raise awareness of the impact of parental cannabis use. This is too often ignored or minimised in assessments.
Although most social workers in the assessment team receive regular monthly supervision, the records do not always reflect strong management review or analysis of children’s experiences. More work is required to ensure that supervision provides a continuous evaluation of whether children’s experiences are understood and to ensure that interventions are making a difference to helping and protecting them from harm. Actions by managers to provide routine review and written evaluation during the assessment period is intended to strengthen management grip on progress.
Priority is given to reducing the impact of gang activity and serious violence on young people’s education outcomes. Specific local ethnic communities whose young people are known to be at higher risk of experiencing or perpetrating serious youth violence benefit from having dedicated access to the safe spaces and resources of the youth service.
"Senior leaders are acutely aware that the Haringey workforce is one of their most valuable assets and are working diligently to support, train and recruit permanent staff. Recruitment and retention of staff is a high priority, but agency staff rates remain very high. The local authority has had several successes, including a number of agency staff converting to permanent positions. In a highly competitive recruitment context, leaders are not complacent. They have acted to ‘grow your own’, have recruited several newly qualified staff and have more taking up post in February 2020. These staff are supported well, caseloads are manageable and staff morale is good. The recruitment and retention of more experienced staff remains a considerable issue. A diverse workforce at every level in children’s services is a key strength, enabling better engagement with children and their families," the report concluded.
The London Borough of Haringey should address the recruitment and retention of permanent social workers and managers. Work should be carried out to support and protect vulnerable adolescents who go missing, including those who are criminally and sexually exploited.
The quality and effectiveness of case management oversight and supervision by team managers in the assessment teams needs improvements and the impact of audit and quality assurance arrangements should be addressed.
Focused visit to Haringey local authority children’s services