Council praised for improvements to services it withdrew from provider

Transfer back to council of services means majority of cases supervised within agreed timeframe, Ofsted says

group meeting
Photo: Rido/Fotolia

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”.

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2 Responses to Council praised for improvements to services it withdrew from provider

  1. Andrew January 16, 2018 at 11:31 am #

    More contracted out services which are not of an acceptable standard.

    Wonder who the provider was, useful to know so that others can avoid them.

  2. Stuart January 16, 2018 at 8:14 pm #

    Ofsted should be disseminating that kind of info Andrew, but I’m pretty sure they won’t.

    This development can’t have gone without wider notice though. Hopefully others will use it as something to learn from rather than a trigger for retrenchment and more blind dogma. Politicians tend to find it hard to admit their errors – look at how long it took the tories to realise that, after all, there actually is such a thing as society so well done Wandsworth and may others follow likewise without waiting for ofsted to alarm them.