London council rated 'requires improvement' after management failings

By Gabriella Jozwiak

| 17 December 2018

Persistent problems with management oversight at Haringey Council have been cited as contributing to children's services being rated 'requires improvement' by Ofsted.

Haringey Council's children's services has been rated "requires improvement" by Ofsted

However, a report published after inspectors visited in October and November 2018 said services were improving, despite children, young people and their carers receiving an inconsistent service.

Inspectors noted the quality of management oversight was "inconsistent", and supervision of case work variable in frequency, quality and effectiveness, for which they blamed a high turnover of social workers and managers.

They found lack of oversight to be particularly problematic within permanence planning for children, where inspectors said there was no system in place to oversee practice.

However, they praised director of children's services, Ann Graham, for delivering a "significant increase in pace and re-focus on plans to address identified priorities" since she joined the council in April 2018.

"She has a clear grip on presenting issues and is driving actions to make improvements," the report stated.

"For example, she chairs the children's improvement board, the joint area targeted inspection action plan group, quarterly performance meetings and the recruitment and retention board."

Inspectors were positive about social workers, who were found to know children in care well and to visit them "regularly in response to their needs, and often beyond statutory expectations".

"Inspectors were impressed by social workers' efforts to develop relationships with children who have had difficult experiences and have shown sensitivity and empathy towards young people in these circumstances," the report stated.

It added: "Reflecting the diversity of the local population, social workers have a sophisticated awareness of diversity and how cultural, religious and other factors underpin children's sense of identity, as well as how they impact on need and risk.

"Inspectors found this was an integral and core part of everyday practice for social workers." 

However, Inspectors noted that evidence of work undertaken with children was not always recoded in their files.

Social workers were found to be failing to keep records up to date by not revising children's assessments when their circumstances changed.

This was particularly the case for children with disabilities, where inspectors noted: "In the majority of cases, plans focus on the needs of parents rather than the child." 

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Services for care leavers have improved since the last inspection - the department was rated requires improvement in 2014 - and are now "a significant strength", the report stated.

It praised staff for creating clear pathway plans, which were regularly reviewed, and for offering care leavers "a range of opportunities for them to gain skills and confidence and to prepare for living independently".

Inspectors also said the authority had a range of suitable accommodation for care leavers, and that social workers were in touch with the vast majority of their care leavers, and demonstrated "continuous efforts when they are not".

Elin Weston, Haringey Council cabinet member for children, education and families, said: "We welcome the findings of the recent Ofsted inspection. We're pleased that the inspectors highlighted a number of examples of good practice at Haringey and recognised that a number of improvements have already been made.

"In particular, the inspectors recognised the work of our incredibly dedicated, ‘ambitious' social workers and described them as tenacious in their efforts to support young people. The inspector also noted that there has been an increase in pace and a new focus on making the changes needed to the service, following the appointment of our new permanent director.

"We wholeheartedly take on board the recommendations the inspectors made and we remain committed to giving all of Haringey's children the very best start in life. We are already taking steps to address many of the challenges that were highlighted in the report."

In January a joint inspection of Haringey children's services by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, and the police and probation inspectorates criticised the authority's multi-agency efforts to support children at risk of neglect. 

However, the most recent report said the council had demonstrated "substantive improvements" in this work.

Haringey's children's services came under intense scrutiny following the death of Baby Peter Connelly in August 2007.

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