Services for children who need help and protection, children in care and care leavers in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea are outstanding, according to Ofsted.
Since the previous inspection in 2016, excellent services and high-quality social work practice have been very well sustained, the inspection of children's services found.
"Senior leadership is strong and aspirational; leaders continue to strengthen, improve and innovate services to benefit children and their families. Leaders and senior managers work together highly effectively within a bi-borough approach to provide excellent strategic and some shared operational services with Westminster City Council, and with the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. This includes the highly effective multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) and the well-regarded centre for systemic practice," said the report.
The children’s workforce is very stable, highly experienced and trained to a high standard. Direct work with children in care and with children who need help and protection is highly skilled and purposeful. Senior leaders know the needs of their local communities very well and this is reflected in their accurate and comprehensive self-assessment.
The experiences and progress of children who need help and protection were rated as outstanding. Inspectors found:
- Families receive excellent early help services that are very well established and offer an exceptionally broad range of support to children and families in the community.
- Early help professionals are highly experienced and work collaboratively and well with social workers and partner services to provide highly effective help.
- The edge of care service, ‘the families forward team’, provides a swift and responsive service so that vulnerable children and their parents can forge relationships of trust with skilled professionals who help reduce and mitigate risks.
- Threshold decisions are made appropriately and are informed by a good range of professionals who understand them, apply them consistently and provide relevant information for sound decision-making.
- Where children are at risk of significant harm, strategy discussions are held by professionals swiftly, are well informed and make clear decisions about next steps to effectively protect children.
- Child protection enquiries are very effective and timely in identifying risks and required actions to help to reduce risks to children.
- Assessments are strong, suitably analytical and provide powerful insight into the lives of children and families.
- The culture of collaborative working between managers and professional staff that is embedded within the relationship model of systemic practice means that care and sensitivity to the needs of children are highly developed and lead to strong social work practice.
- Disabled children receive a strong service that makes a positive difference to their lives.
- Children who are at risk due to episodes of going missing, or criminal or sexual exploitation, are appropriately safeguarded. A range of highly impressive services are in place to tackle risk from involvement in gangs and child sexual exploitation.
- Young people who present as homeless receive a strong and effective service; they are swiftly and appropriately assessed to see if they need to come into care.
The report highlights that planning for children and their families is relationship-based and children and families are very well engaged and supported by professionals. However, not all plans are clear or specific enough about what needs to change within achievable timescales so that children and families can understand what they and other professionals need to do to achieve improved outcomes.
The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers is outstanding. Ofsted said:
- Children in care and care leavers receive an outstanding service from workers who know them exceptionally well and are caring and ambitious for them.
- Children only come into care when it is necessary and appropriate for them to do so. There is a strong commitment to support children to remain with their families, and a broad range of edge of care services are in place to achieve this, providing children and their families with the best opportunity to stay together safely and happily.
- When it is not possible for children to remain within their birth family, alternative permanence options are carefully considered.
- Social workers and clinicians, who are well-trained in the model of systemic practice, know children well, many for a number of years, and spend quality time with them, a practice which Ofsted describes as "highly impressive".
- Children are regularly seen by health professionals and are offered a wide range of support and advice by specialist nurses, whether they live in or out of the borough.
- Children live in homes that meet their needs and have been carefully chosen; they are thriving in permanent foster placements, residential care and semi-independent accommodation.
- Children placed for permanence and adoption benefit from excellent and timely sensitive social work practice, with positive matching with prospective adopters or special guardians to include consideration of culture and ethnicity.
- Children benefit from regular reviews, and social workers produce detailed updated assessments which consider all aspects, including recent events associated with children’s lives.
- Care leavers enjoy the continuity of high levels of support from their social workers or personal advisers, who are in touch with them regularly.
- Care leavers can ‘stay put’ where this is right for them and they are supported to achieve their dreams and aspirations. Young people spoken to by inspectors were confident and highly aspirational.
- Care leavers are aware of their entitlements and are supported in a wide range of leisure and enrichment opportunities, for instance gym membership, creative writing camps, art-based activities and team building activities.
The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families was also judged as outstanding. The report said:
- The impact of leaders to provide and sustain high-quality services and embed excellent social work practice is impressive.
- Partnership arrangements are strong and function extremely well.
- Since the previous inspection, services to children and young people at risk of sexual exploitation or of going missing have been further developed and strengthened.
- Strategic and innovative planning mean that there is a strong and ambitious vision to achieve placement sufficiency.
- Senior leaders and managers have an excellent understanding of their service, which is reflected in the self-assessment.
- Senior leaders ensure that the workforce is highly capable and skilled at all levels of the organisation. Staff morale is high, and turnover is low. Staff reported that they enjoy working for the local authority. Staff are highly qualified, skilled and experienced.
"Social workers report good support by their managers and senior managers, who are visible and supportive and know the children and families well. They have regular monthly supervision, clinical support, reflective sessions and access to informal support and manageable caseloads. Managers are well qualified and there has been effective investment in management capacity and the development and training of managers and staff. The extensive training and investment in systemic practice enables social workers to be skilled and confident in their work, building strong and enduring relationships to improve outcomes and sustained change for children and families," the report concluded.
In order to improve, strategy meetings at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea should include the routine involvement of health professionals to support and contribute to multi-agency information-sharing and decision making.
Plans for children should also include specific actions and time-frames, so that managers, professionals, children and families know what they need to do and by when.
Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
Inspection of children’s social care services
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