There is strong corporate leadership in Harrow to improve outcomes for children and their families who need help or protection, Ofsted has said.
Since the previous inspection of children’s services in 2017, there has been a sustained commitment to improving the quality of social work practice, a focused visit of the authority found.
"Senior leaders know the service well, as reflected in the recent self-evaluation. A comprehensive suite of performance data informs this knowledge," said the report.
Inspectors found sound social work practice within the MASH, as well as in the first response team. Child protection concerns are quickly identified and lead to timely interventions to safeguard children and protect them from harm. Social workers know their children well and are confident and competent in their work, it added.
The report highlighted:
- Decision-making following contacts, including those out of hours, is appropriate and results in the timely progression of referrals for statutory services.
- Children at risk of significant harm are recognised and responded to appropriately, and cases progress to section 47 enquiries without delay.
- Most assessments are of a good quality. Children’s experiences and wishes for the future are well captured and inform decision-making and planning.
- Children at risk of, or those experiencing, violence and exploitation receive a timely, holistic and well-coordinated response from a range of experienced and knowledgeable practitioners.
- Early support referrals are proportionate to children’s needs, and there is a wide range of access to early support through community hubs.
- In all cases seen by inspectors, decisions to ‘step down’ to early support were appropriate, with clear next steps identified for ongoing support.
Furthermore, social workers like working in Harrow and staff morale is good. Social workers report that they are well supported by accessible and experienced managers and have manageable caseloads. Innovative recruitment of social workers from abroad is helping families from the same ethnic population to engage more meaningfully.
A wide range of performance data is used effectively to monitor and scrutinise front door workflows, including timeliness of decision-making, assessments and staff workloads.
In order to improve social work practice, Harrow should focus on more consistent partner engagement in strategy discussions and associated meetings. There needs to be further development of the existing audit methodology to increase the focus on the impact of practice to improve outcomes for children.
Finally, measures should be embedded to improve the evaluation and reporting of the impact of early support in improving outcomes for children.
Diane Wills is Consultant Social Worker at WillisPalmer, responsible for quality assuring the forensic risk assessment reports.
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