Council rated inadequate by Ofsted for 'unsafe practice'

Neil Puffett
Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A council that was found to have left vulnerable children at risk of harm has had its children's services rated "inadequate" by Ofsted.

Inspectors who visited Wandsworth Council during November and December last year said the standard of social work practice and the quality of leadership, management and governance had both declined since children’s services at the local authority were found to be "good" when it was last inspected in 2012.

The report said leadership, management and governance in the borough failed to prevent the "serious decline" since then.

"Lack of effective scrutiny by senior leaders, elected members and managers means that they were not aware of the serious deficits concerning unsafe practice for too many vulnerable children until this inspection," the inspection report states.

"Managers at all levels of the organisation do not have sufficient oversight of frontline practice."

The report said that, for children in need of help and protection, this resulted in the inappropriate application of thresholds for intervention and service provision, as well as delays in children and young people being seen by social workers and inadequate recognition and management of risk.

"This left some children at risk of harm," the report adds.

The report also highlights the fact that 10 care leavers with high needs had spent unacceptably long periods in unsuitable accommodation without the necessary support being in place.

Inspectors said that although the quality and regularity of social work supervision is improving, "it does not yet assure good and safe enough practice".

"There is good organisational support in place for social workers, who have low caseloads," the report states.

"However, there is a lack of management oversight and a failure to sufficiently challenge poor practice. This has left some children at risk of harm or experiencing drift and delay."

Wandsworth is the 21st local authority to have its children's services rated as inadequate by Ofsted since the single inspection framework launched in November 2013.

Dawn Warwick, director of children’s services at Wandsworth Council, said the "unacceptable shortcomings" identified in the report are now being addressed "from top to bottom".

"Ofsted’s approach and standards are far more rigorous than ever before but the guidance and insight that comes with the inspection is very clear," she said.

"We know what we have to do and staff are 100 per cent committed to delivering these improvements.

“The process is already underway including an audit of our existing case files to ensure those young people who rely on our care are receiving the support they need.

"Ofsted will continue to work with us to ensure services improve and the process will be carefully assessed to ensure it is effective and sustained."

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