Wandsworth council has been rated ‘inadequate’ after a decline in the standard of social work practice.
A lack of effective scrutiny in the council also meant leaders “were not aware of the serious deficits concerning unsafe practice for too many vulnerable children until this inspection”, the Ofsted judgement said.
Since the inspection, “four senior or middle managers”, including an assistant director, have left the council, a spokesperson said. Dawn Warwick, who was head of children’s services for Wandsworth and director of education and social services for Wandsworth and Richmond, is now only director of children’s services for Wandsworth. A new role of director of adult social services has also been created.
Ofsted found managers had insufficient oversight, meaning the council was applying thresholds for intervention inappropriately. It also caused delays for children and young people being seen by social workers and an “inadequate recognition and management of risk”.
Strategy meetings for children who need help and protection “do not comply with statutory guidance”, Ofsted said, and managers and social workers failed to recognise the need for a section 47 child protection investigation on “far too many occasions”.
Wandsworth was rated ‘good’ in 2012, and while it was found to have low caseloads for social workers and a lower staff turnover and agency rate than comparable boroughs, “the quality and regularity of social work supervision is improving but it does not yet assure good and safe enough practice”.
Social workers in the authority knew their children well, the report said, and implementing the Signs of Safety framework was giving them a consistent model on which to base their practice, but this was not yet embedded across children’s services.
Management oversight needed to be strengthened, Ofsted recommended, and more needed to be done to ensure that the quality of social work was consistent.
Since the inspection, Wandsworth said that as well as a senior management restructure, its front door services had been reviewed.
“We have some superb frontline social workers here and the inspectors noted the care and expertise many of our staff bring to their work,” said Kathy Tracey, cabinet member for education and children’s services.
Warwick accepted the findings of the report and said it pointed out good practice that could be built upon.
“Ofsted has placed its confidence in the council’s ability to put matters right and we are now concentrating on improving our services and are doing everything possible to bring our performance up to the standards required,” Warwick said.