Services for children in Croydon continue to improve, Ofsted has said.
Inspectors visited the authority for the fifth monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate in September 2017 and found staff morale is improving, with increasing confidence in the improvement journey under the new leadership.
"A permanent executive director and a permanent director of early help and children’s social care have recently taken up posts in Croydon. They have quickly and accurately evaluated the current quality of practice, and they have identified appropriate priorities for improvement, although it is too soon to gauge the impact," said the report.
"Although very recent, there are signs of an acceleration of pace, with a concerted focus on key priorities," it added.
Inspectors reviewed the progress of children receiving early help services, and those whose cases had been ‘stepped down’ following an assessment that risks had reduced.
The report highlighted:
- The new senior leadership team has brought drive, energy and focus to the improvement journey. Members of this team have quickly analysed and evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of the service and have developed a coherent set of priorities to improve outcomes for children.
- The recent self-assessment of key issues to be addressed shows an acute awareness of priorities and of the need to accelerate the pace of progress.
- Thresholds across the range of services for children considered during this visit are broadly accurate, with most children receiving a service at the right level of intervention.
- The early help service has undergone a full review, with a reconfigured service launched in November 2018, which is therefore in its infancy.
- Many children whose services have been stepped down within children’s social care have a positive outcome and benefit from the intervention and services offered.
- Social workers are generally positive about working in Croydon and morale is improving.
- Staff consistently refer to reduced caseloads, with most reporting that their caseloads are manageable.
However, the practice for children who return home from care to live with their families is highly variable. Better practice includes well-planned transitions with a comprehensive support package; poorer practice is evident when social workers do not provide prompt support or give sufficient consideration to any remaining risks.
Children do have written plans, but these are not always evaluative or outcome focused and tend to focus on processes rather than the needs of the child.
Not all staff receive regular supervision and despite the improvements, staff turnover remains a challenge, and senior managers continue to focus on recruitment and retention.
"In summary, the local authority is continuing to make progress and the pace of improvement has accelerated recently. Senior leaders are beginning to create a culture with a focus on systemic and strengths-based practice, with the experience of the child at the centre," the report concluded.