Inspectors praise 'outstanding' children's services leadership in Islington

By Joe Lepper

| 14 July 2017

Ofsted inspectors have praised the "highly ambitious" leadership of children's services at the London Borough of Islington in ensuring its most vulnerable children are well supported.

Ofsted's report highlights Islington Council leaders' strong commitment to their role as corporate parents for looked-after children. Picture: Islington Council

Islington is one of two London boroughs to have received an overall rating of "good" from Ofsted in reports published today, with inspectors also impressed with the running of children's services at Bracknell Forest Council, with looked-after children services at the council rated outstanding.

In rating leadership and management at Islington Council as "outstanding" Ofsted highlighted the strong commitment of political leaders in their role as corporate parents for looked-after children and the clear guidance and support that management offer to frontline social workers.

Inspectors said that a strategic focus in the department means there is robust oversight of work, and children in need of help or at risk of harm are swiftly identified and supported.

They also noted that the high standards come despite high levels of social deprivation in the borough, and amid stark challenges for children and young people, such as gang culture and knife crime.

Islington's child protection work, adoption team and support for care leavers were all rated as "good", with inspectors praising the effective relationships social workers have with children. This is achieved through a focus on manageable caseloads, reducing staff turnover and investing in training.

"Children's services in Islington benefit from highly ambitious, capable and confident operational and political leadership. The population of Islington is richly diverse. Some localities have high levels of social deprivation, and many families in need of support have highly complex needs," Ofsted's inspection report following the visit over April and May states.

"The borough has a number of challenges in relation to gang culture, knife crime and substance misuse. Nevertheless, almost all vulnerable children who come into contact with children's services receive good support from resilient and well-managed staff."

Islington Council's lead member for children and young people, Joe Caluori, said: "Despite seven years of government cuts, this administration has always prioritised protecting funding for children's services.

"As a consequence, our children's early help and social care services have gone from strength to strength and this report shows the strong culture of excellence we have built up in Islington."

Bracknell Forest's support for looked-after children and care leavers as well as its adoption services were all rated as "outstanding" by Ofsted, following their visit in April and May.

"The importance of a stable, well-trained and dedicated workforce is well understood by leaders in Bracknell Forest," states Ofsted's inspection report.

"As a result, children benefit from effective relationships with their social workers, and their needs are well understood and planned for."

However, while management oversight and a strong focus on analysing cases was praised, inspectors want to see this more effectively used to reduce delays in court proceedings.

Meanwhile, Warwickshire County Council's children's services has been rated as "requires improvement".

All aspects of their work require improvement, except for adoption services, which was rated as good. 

The inspection report states that social workers and independent reviewing offices are overworked and progress in implementing a new computer system is too slow, leading to delays in decisions around children's care.

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