A change in culture in frontline social work has been noted in Tower Hamlets children’s services by Ofsted.
The inspectorate highlighted the “major challenge” faced by the authority after there had been 13 knife-related incidents in the past six weeks in the borough.
“A major challenge for Tower Hamlets is the alarming increase in violent knife crime (13 knife-related incidents in the past six weeks) linked to drug-related gang activity, and involving young and vulnerable boys and girls. These are often sexually and criminally exploited children, those missing from home and care and young people associated with gangs,” said the report.
“They are mainly children with very complex needs who are known to a number of agencies, sometimes for many years, due to adversity suffered in childhood. Too many are not accessing education or training,” the report added.
Previously, the local authority’s relationships with key safeguarding partners were underdeveloped, with too many staff working in isolation. However, a revised early help strategy designed to tackle weak practice in this area is now an important priority for the local authority and Local Safeguarding Children’s Board.
As a result, working relationships with stakeholders are developing to help and protect these vulnerable children and this is beginning to have a positive impact, leading to more effective and innovative practice. Children’s services are actively seeking to do more to help and support schools.
“Since the previous inspection and the monitoring visit in December 2017, there has been a substantial improvement in the quality of practice with this group of exploited children and their families,” said the third monitoring report since the authority was rated as inadequate in overall effectiveness in April 2017. “The recent co-location of key staff and the creation of a dedicated, authoritative, multi-agency exploitation team is very effective in responding quickly to high-risk situations.”
Ofsted praised the renewed focus on children as victims of exploitation rather than for their criminal behaviour and social workers have a better understanding of their lived experiences.
Reliable and effective intelligence gathering processes have been developed to support the sharing of information on a daily basis. This has led to perpetrator disruption activities, as well as prompt actions to prevent serious youth violence and other gang-related activities escalating.
“Overall, while social work practice remains variable across all teams, increasingly, vulnerable adolescents receive higher levels of support and intervention. This is a discernible difference to the previous poor practice and indicates a noteworthy change in culture in frontline social work, which is encouraging,” the report concluded.