Two London boroughs have become the first to have their children’s services rated “outstanding” under Ofsted’s single inspection framework.
In inspection reports published today Ofsted said Kensington and Chelsea, and Westminster children’s services provide first-rate services to children and young people.
Although inspected separately the two authorities are part of the Tri-borough arrangement that has united the children’s social services across three London councils. The third member of the Tri-borough, Hammersmith and Fulham, was rated good.
Ofsted said services in Kensington and Chelsea were “resourced, planned and delivered very well by an exceptional workforce”.
In its report on Westminster Ofsted said the authority’s “exceptional performance framework supports the delivery of social work to a very high and, in most cases, outstanding quality”.
Absence of complaceny
Ofsted said the leadership in Kensington and Chelsea “extraordinarily high quality”.
“Senior leaders and elected members are well connected, well informed, and operate within a mature culture of respectful challenge,” it said. “An absence of complacency leads to a strong culture of continuous learning, professional accountability and responsibility.”
“The routine way in which social workers see children” is a positive feature of its service, Ofsted added. “This forms the basis of highly effective social work intervention to help protect children from risk of harm,” the report said.
In Westminster’s inspection, Ofsted noted how the low caseloads of the council’s social workers allowed “exemplary application” of the Tri-borough’s ‘focus on practice’ model of social work.
It added: “Well-trained and impressive social workers are able to retain their expertise in practice and pursue career opportunities other than management.”
Culture of compassion
Hammersmith and Fulham, while ‘good’ overall, was found to have ‘outstanding’ adoption and leadership performance.
Ofsted said that “considerable economies of scale are achieved through combined administrative and management arrangements across the Tri-borough partnership”.
Across the Tri-borough, there is a commitment among politicians, managers and social care professionals to “create an environment where good-quality social work flourishes and a ‘culture of compassion’, as described to inspectors, is evident”, Ofsted’s report on Hammersmith and Fulham said.
Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector for Ofsted, said the partnership showed what could be achieved and that others “must follow their lead”.
“These inspections clearly show the difference that excellent leadership and social work practice makes to the lives of children and their families,” Wilshaw said.
Andrew Christie, the executive director of children’s services for the Tri-borough, said the rating was a direct result “of the hard work that all our staff put in, often in extremely difficult circumstances”.
Last year the Tri-borough was awarded £4 million from the Department for Education’s innovation fund and it was recently named one of the government’s Partners in Practice, which will see it given more freedom over how to run children’s services.