Croydon praised over efforts to support children despite financial woes

Fiona Simpson
Monday, August 2, 2021

Croydon Council has been praised by Ofsted over its “strenuous efforts” to support vulnerable children despite declaring bankruptcy earlier this year.

Croydon Council faced a £66m funding shortfall last year. Picture: Adobe Stock
Croydon Council faced a £66m funding shortfall last year. Picture: Adobe Stock

The south London council issued a Section 114 notice - declaring de facto bankruptcy and banning spending outside of essential services in January amid a potential budget shortfall of £66m over the last financial year.

The notice came following the resignation of director of children’s services (DCS) Rob Henderson in June last year who was replaced by interim DCS Debbie Jones.

In a monitoring visit last month, Ofsted inspectors found that “despite the immense challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, the significant changes to the permanent senior leadership team and the considerable, ongoing and far-reaching local authority financial challenges, staff at the front door are making safe and appropriate decisions on most referrals”.

Inspectors also highlighted the work of senior leaders to “mitigate the impact of the necessary changes on their staff and vulnerable children and they recognise the importance of strong partnership alliances with stakeholders in this process”.

Social workers’ “commitment, professionalism and determination” was also praised and inspectors noted staff morale remained high.

“Visible, highly committed service managers and the head of service at the front door are fully cognisant of the emerging pressures and are working assiduously to find solutions, albeit within limited resources,” inspectors found.

In Croydon, “children and their families have access to a range of universal and early help targeted services provided by skilled and committed staff”, a letter published by Ofsted following the visit states.

It also highlights quick referrals to the council’s Croydon Supporting Families (CFS) service but adds social workers face high caseloads due to financial constraints and staff departures.

“Despite the challenges, social workers and their managers in CSF remain determined to provide vulnerable children in Croydon with the help and protection that they need,” it adds.

In its recommendations, Ofsted has urged the council to work with the police to ensure adherence to the statutory safeguarding guidance.

It also must improve the effectiveness of the emergency duty team in terms of response times and quality of practice and the quality, frequency and effectiveness of supervision, it adds.

“Leaders need to maintain an unwavering focus on the needs of children as they continue to work in the context of financial restrictions and changes to the workforce,” inspector Brenda McLaughlin said.

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