Leadership change helps council move out of 'inadequate'

By Joe Lepper

| 08 January 2019

Ofsted has praised improvements in children's services at a London borough over the past two years, lifting its rating from "inadequate" to "good".

The council appointed Ade Adetosoye to lead children's services as executive director for education, care and health and deputy chief executive in December 2016

A change of leadership is cited by inspectors as a key driver to improved support for vulnerable children at Bromley Council after it was handed Ofsted's lowest rating in June 2016.

In December 2016, the council drafted in Ade Adetosoye to lead children's services as executive director for education, care and health and deputy chief executive. He previously led children's services at the City of London Corporation and Lambeth.

Adetosoye, who was awarded an OBE for improvements made at Lambeth, was appointed interim chief executive at Bromley last month.

In their report inspectors state that children's services leadership in Bromley has "an unwavering focus on continuous improvement".

This has ensured that children in need of protection receive good-quality support and that effective early help for families is in place.

The council's early intervention and family support service "provides an impressive preventative service" for families that has reduced the need for statutory intervention and has led to a low rate of repeat referrals, inspectors also found.

"Staff are skilled, enthusiastic and child focused; they have a strong understanding of local need and are adept at engaging with families," states Ofsted's report.

"They provide excellent support services, while being alert to safeguarding issues that may require additional intervention."

Inspectors are also impressed with support for care leavers, in areas such as housing, emotional wellbeing and health.

The council is also praised for the strong involvement of care leavers in strategic decisions around their support. Through a care leavers' forum "they are already shining a spotlight on key issues for care leavers, such as council tax exemption", adds Ofsted's report.

Care leavers' involvement in decision making was also singled out for praise in a December report by the government's care leavers tsar Mark Riddell.

Following their November visit to Bromley, Ofsted has rated the impact of leadership as "outstanding", while child protection, support for looked-after children and care leavers as well as overall effectiveness have been rated as good.

Areas of further improvement cited by inspectors include improving take-up of return home interviews, which are routinely offered when children go missing from home or care.

Inspectors also want to see better placement matching for children with complex needs.

"Planning can be reactive rather than proactive due to the limited range of placements available, resulting in multiple moves," states Ofsted's report.

Peter Fortune, Bromley's executive member for children and families, said: "To go from where Bromley children's services were two years ago when Ofsted judged them inadequate to a position of strength with outstanding leadership, and a good overall rating across all services is unheard of in this time frame."

Also in November 2018, Ofsted inspected children's social care on the Isle of Wight, which is run through a partnership between the island's local authority and Hampshire County Council.

In lifting its overall rating from "requires improvement", when last inspected in 2014, to "good" this time, inspectors praised the ambition of senior leaders to improve support for children and to create a stable and permanent workforce.

"This is a significant achievement since the last inspection, when agency rates were high," states Ofsted's report

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