Services for children in Waltham Forest are good and have significantly improved since the last inspection in 2015, according to Ofsted.
Leaders have made strong progress to establish a resilient, sustainable and child-focused service, which is underpinned by strong, effective political and corporate support, the inspection of children's services at Waltham Forest found.
"Leaders know their services and areas for development and use this knowledge to improvethe quality of practice andoutcomes," said the report which rated the local authority's overall effectiveness as 'good'.
The experiences and progress of children who need help and protection were rated as good. Inspectors highlighted:
- Children and families benefit from an embeddedand well-developed early help offer.
- Partners have a good understanding of thresholds when making referrals which are consistently applied.
- Social workers recogniseand respond when concerns for children escalate.
- Children assessed to be at risk from domestic abuse receive effective interventions to safeguard their welfare.
- The response to children who are missing or who have been missing has demonstrated sustained improvement.
- The strategic and operational responseto vulnerable adolescentsis strong.
- The pre-proceedings phase of the public law outline is used effectively where children’s needs escalate, which, in most cases,results in improved outcomes for children.
The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers were rated as good. The report stated:
- The local authority model of practice draws on families’strengths, focusing on maintaining children in their families wherever possible.
- The overwhelming majority ofchildren who need to comeinto care do so in a timely manner and receive effective and sensitive intervention.
- Children’s needs for permanence are considered at the earliest opportunity.
- Reviews for children in care are purposeful and held ina timely manner.
- The majority of pathway plansfor care leaversare routinely completed and reviewed.
- A positive and proactive approach ensures that most care leavers are engaged in education,employment or training opportunities.
However, the report warns that the local authority recognises the challenge it has in sustaining placement stability for a minority of children. Some children undergo too many placement moves before a suitable match is made with permanent carers.
Ofsted rated the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families as outstanding. In particular it highlighted:
- Senior leaders, managers and politicians are highly effective, ambitious and passionate about improving outcomes for children and young people and strive to provide excellent outcomes for them.
- Effective and mature partnerships across all agencies are very well established at strategic and operational levels, and this is a real strength of the local authority.
- Senior managers know the quality of frontline practice very well, informed by relevant performance information and enhanced by shadowing workers, observing practice and engaging with young people in a meaningful way.
- Quality assurance activity has much improved since the previous inspection.
- Social workers appreciate the opportunity to continually develop and progress in their careers and are supported to do so. The workforce strategy is effective, resulting in increased numbers of permanent staff, which means that children now have fewer changes of social worker.
- The local authority is aware of the potential effects of increases in demand and the consequent impact on social worker caseloads, and there are plans to address this issue.
In order to improve, Waltham Forest should improve the quality of children’s plans to ensure that they are child-specific and identify timescales for change. The timeliness of children in care health assessments being entered on to children’s records should also be addressed.
The purpose of visits to children and the recording of such visits in a timely manner needs improvement as does the link between planning for children at risk of domestic abuse at Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARAC) and their child protection/ children in need plans.
the local authority should also ensure that care leavers’ have access to their health history and improve the comprehensiveness of pathway plans.