Kingston’s children’s services transformed says Ofsted

The children's services, which was rated inadequate in 2012, has jumped to good in its latest Ofsted inspection

Kingston's children's services is run by the community interest company Achieving for Children. Photo: Phil Adams

Kingston children’s services have undergone a transformation since being found inadequate in 2012, according to Ofsted.

Ofsted’s latest report on the London borough’s children’s services, which are delivered by the community interest company Achieving for Children, concluded that its services have jumped from inadequate to good since the last inspection.

The verdict makes Kingston only the second council to move from inadequate to good in back-to-back inspections. The first was Cambridgeshire council, which achieved the same improvement last year.

“Children and their families in Kingston upon Thames now receive coordinated, effective and timely support from a wide range of universal and targeted services,” the report said.

Greater efficiencies

Achieving for Children, which manages Kingston and Richmond children’s services and is jointly owned by the two councils, was praised for creating greater efficiencies through a single senior management team.

“It also encourages the sharing of best practice and processes between the two boroughs,” the report said.

Looked-after children rarely experience changes of placement, have their physical and emotional health needs assessed and have prompt access to relevant services, the watchdog found. The majority of care leavers also benefit from “meaningful and enduring” relationships with key workers.

Imaginative and resourceful

Social workers were praised for caring about children and young people, being “imaginative and resourceful” and making timely decisions if they need to be taken into care.

“Social workers listen to children’s views carefully when planning for their futures,” the report said.

All services inspected by the watchdog were found to be good, but it recommended that the sharing of child protection reports with parents and carers needs to be improved, as does the quality of return interviews after a child goes missing and the service needs to increase the range of post-16 employment and training options available for care leavers.

Strong partnerships

Nick Whitfield, chief executive of Achieving for Children and director of children’s services in Kingston and Richmond, told Community Care that the report is a reward for strong partnership working and creating strong relationships with children.

“We’ve got a very good multi-agency safeguarding hub where we have people from health, the police and mental health, education and children’s social care, and we have all of those people working together to make sure that the decision making is very quick,” Whitfield said.

He added: “We’re pushing back against bureaucracy and making sure our managers are completely focused on the needs of children and young people and that’s one of the great freedoms of this model as we are genuinely focused on that agenda…we’ve focused on empowering people at the frontline, trying to make our managers really strong and make our decision making very good.”

‘Not the only model’

Children “didn’t want to go to independent advocates to advocate for them, they wanted their social workers to advocate for them,” Whitfield said, and that reflects the strong relationships social workers are able to build.

Kingston and Richmond councils raised eyebrows when they chose to go down the independent children services route that has been forced upon failing councils Doncaster and Slough, but Whitfield said the report shows the model can work.

“I hope that we won’t become pompous about the way we describe ourselves, we think we are a model that can work, but we’ve always said we’re not the only model,” Whitfield said.

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