Ofsted inspectors have praised the impact of a council’s decision to bring an externally-commissioned service back under council control.
Inspectors said the decision by Wandsworth council to bring its care leaver service back in house had meant changes which have had “a positive impact on the service”.
A monitoring report by the watchdog said the council, which was rated ‘inadequate’ in its February 2016 inspection, had taken immediate steps to improve care leaver services while they were externally commissioned. Improvements were not sustained, so the service was transferred back to the local authority.
Changes made by Wandsworth council included a permanent increase in the number of personal advisers and the education, employment and training of specialist career and education advisers.
“There has been a reduction in caseload numbers and this is leading to a better quality of engagement and direct work with young people,” the report said.
It said it took “some time” to end the contractual arrangements with the previous provider, which had “limited the pace of improvement”. However, it said the quality of work in most areas had begun to improve.
Eye on management oversight
“Management oversight of cases has received particular attention since the service came back in-house. As a result, by mid-November 2017, 97% of cases had been supervised within agreed time frames,” Ofsted said.
It added that care leavers had good opportunities to influence the design of the new service by suggesting their name and giving feedback which led to a refurbished access area for them.
Despite improvements, care leavers were not yet receiving timely support for preparing for independence, the report said. It added that Staying Put – the government policy introduced in 2014 which means a council funds a child in foster care to remain in the placement past their 18th birthday until they are 21 if they want to – was not being sufficiently promoted by professionals.
However, it said senior managers had recognised the weakness, and established a group to investigate the reasons for low numbers of young people using Staying Put.
Pathway plans were “too variable” in quality and using ‘scaling’ to measure each young person’s well-being and preparation for independence was “not routinely resulting in a well-considered analysis of risk”.