Most vulnerable adolescents in Kingston-upon-Thames receive a good service from skilled and enthusiastic social workers, Ofsted has reported.
Social workers and other professionals have a comprehensive understanding of the range of risks that young people encounter from outside the family, and take appropriate action to reduce those risks, Ofsted said.
"Links between children and young people’s experiences of neglect and domestic abuse within the family and the increased vulnerability to exploitation are well understood," said the report. "Responses are appropriately prioritised, and children and young people benefit from specialist, accessible and well-resourced help and protection."
However, inspectors found that a few children had been living in neglectful or abusive circumstances for too long, despite social work intervention, and a small number of children had been out of statutory education for some time. These factors had increased their vulnerability to exploitation and, in some cases, their challenging behaviours had
become more entrenched.
In the focused inspection, inspectors looked at the local authority’s arrangements for protecting vulnerable adolescents.
The report found:
- Vulnerable adolescents are protected effectively at the ‘front door’.
- The response to young people who go missing is timely and proportionate.
- The take-up of return home interviews is high. Young people benefit from a consistent approach from a small team of skilled workers, who undertake return home interviews with children who have been missing from home and care, including those placed out-of-authority.
- The multi-agency risk, vulnerability and exploitation (MARVE) panel, which has recently been expanded and reconfigured, has strong partnership commitment and is enabling comprehensive information-sharing.
- Risks of exploitation or vulnerability to exploitation are identified well by social workers.
- The youth resilience service provides a comprehensive and accessible service to vulnerable adolescents.
- Social workers know their young people well and work is very clearly child focused.
However, education arrangements are insufficient for some vulnerable adolescents who are not accessing mainstream education. A small number of young people have been out of education for too long and are only accessing a very small amount of tuition in the community or at home. In addition to the negative impact on education and employment outcomes, the lack of structure and purpose in the young people’s days means that they are more vulnerable to negative or harmful influences.
The report also notes that while there is a strong focus on the use of general and themed audits to improve practice, audits are more focused on compliance than the impact of intervention on outcomes. Audits lack specific recommendations to improve the effectiveness and quality of work with children and to sufficiently enable learning to be replicated and embedded more widely.
Supervision of social workers is regular and there is some evidence of reflection during supervision sessions. However, discussions do not consistently result in clear and specific actions to improve young people’s circumstances.
"Caseloads are manageable and staff are able to visit young people more frequently than statutory requirements if necessary. Staff morale is high and all staff report visible, supportive management. There is access to relevant training, as evidenced by the widespread awareness of the workforce of emerging local concerns in relation to county lines and organised crime," said the report.
Ofsted recommends that Kingston-upon-Thames improves education arrangements for adolescents who are not in receipt of full-time education, to reduce their vulnerability to exploitation.
The coordination and review of risk minimisation planning and the actions required needs improvement and the quality of audits needs work to better consider the impact of intervention on improving outcomes for young people and which lead to more specific