Improvements to Bromley’s children’s services, including the “significant” impact of investment in laptops and mobile phones for social workers, mean they should not be removed from council control.
That is the verdict of a commissioner’s report into improvement in Bromley, which praised the work of deputy chief executive Ade Adetosoye, the commitment of frontline social workers, and the council’s £1.5 million investment in recruiting social workers to reduce caseloads.
The report, submitted by commissioner Frankie Sulke as part of a government direction to monitor the ‘inadequate’-rated children’s services, said a change of control in the service would likely “disrupt and delay the improvements being made”.
As well as the £1.5 million one-off payment to recruit more social workers, the council committed to £4.4 million extra spending on children’s services.
“[Council] members agreed an additional sum to equip social workers immediately with laptops and mobile phones to facilitate more effective and secure remote working when required. The impact of this was significant and helped to ensure that social workers understood that they were being supported to make the necessary improvements in their practice,” the report said.
Pace of improvement
It was the second report on children’s services by the commissioner in Bromley since Ofsted’s ‘inadequate’ rating in June 2016.
It concluded that Adetosoye’s appointment in December 2016 had improved the pace of improvement “significantly”.
“The strength of the new leadership and management in children’s services is bringing about good, steady improvements in the services which serve Bromley’s vulnerable children and young people, and there is a good understanding of what more needs to be done to improve further and to ensure sustainability,” the report said.
It added the council had successfully changed the culture within services to “energise staff and encourage proactive, child-focused practice”.
It also instilled confidence in staff that promises would be kept, which helped them feel supported in their improvement efforts, the report said.
‘Quality social workers’
The council was delivering a “significant increase” in the number of social workers and team leaders. While recruitment had been slower than desired, the senior team was “rightly ensuring that only high quality social workers” were hired.
“Bromley’s social workers continue to work extremely hard, with passion and determination, for their children and are now receiving the support they need to succeed. There is still more to do to achieve the levels of caseload which have been promised, but progress towards those goals is clear,” it said.
Since Ofsted’s inspection the council had vastly improved auditing and learning from practice, the report said. A ‘triple-lock’ system used on frontline cases is supporting “rapid improvement and learning”.
“This involves independent managers reviewing ‘live cases’ to quality assure decision making and provide immediate feedback to front line staff with auditors monitoring themes, co-ordinating the benchmarking of practice and discussing the programme of learning arising from trends and patterns found.”
In response to the report, the government issued a new direction to the council, and revoked the need for a commissioner.
The new direction tells the council to continue reporting progress to the Department for Education, and ensure that Adetosoye’s focus is “directed exclusively towards improved delivery of children’s social care functions” until agreed otherwise.