Ofsted inspectors have found social workers in Tower Hamlets are struggling to articulate the council’s preferred social work model, which has caused “confusion and a lack of clarity” around assessments.
The monitoring inspection into the council’s children’s services, which was rated ‘inadequate’ in April 2017, said while most staff welcomed changes made by senior leaders, there was “some concern” about the “breadth and scale of the new initiatives”.
Most social workers spoken to during the inspection were concerned about capacity and ability to produce good-quality work due to heavy caseloads, inspectors found.
However, the council had launched a new workforce strategy in a bid to reduce the reliance on agency workers, and there was evidence of some agency staff becoming permanent.
‘Back to basics’
“Investments in ‘back to basics’ training – a three-day mandatory course for all social workers and managers – is designed to embed a shared understanding of expected social work standards of practice across all teams,” the report found.
Inspectors praised improvements to performance management systems and leaders focusing on compliance with statutory requirements as “starting to change the culture in children’s services”.
“It is encouraging that most improvements identified by the previous visit have been sustained and, in many cases, further improved. Senior leaders and elected members have an increasing in-depth knowledge of their strengths and areas of weakness. They are aware of the challenges they face to embed the positive changes made, while simultaneously addressing the areas of poorer practice,” inspectors said.
John Biggs, mayor of Tower Hamlets, said the council had committed £4.6 million to children’s services last year, and a further £5.2 million would be spent in this year’s budget proposals.
“This positive report sends a clear signal we are on the right path and that the inspectors have confidence in the changes we are making.”
The council said next steps for the service include:
– A single point of contact for early help services, with the first phase completed by April
– Continuing the development of a new social work model
– Embedding the workforce development plan, including consideration of a social work academy for learning, development and improved practice work.