Ofsted praises impact of council’s ‘significant investment’ which reduced social workers’ caseloads

Inspectors said a new approach to child-centred practice had improved the quality of social work since the council was rated 'inadequate'

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A children’s services has progressed from ‘inadequate’ to ‘requires improvement’ following a significant investment from the council and the work of the senior leadership team to improve workforce stability, inspectors have said.

Services in Lambeth were rated ‘inadequate’ in 2015, but since then Ofsted has seen an improvement in the quality of practice and praised a new framework which had improved child-centred practice.

“Significant investment has resulted in an increased, permanent social care workforce, with the turnover of social workers having reduced from a very high percentage to a rate lower than the national average,” the report said.

This had seen a reduction in caseloads, which had meant “improving social work practice”.

It also praised how the principal social worker role had been developed to create a culture of “child-centred, reflective practice”.

“Social workers value access to group supervision, case consultation and coaching from advanced practitioners; inspectors saw cases where this work contributed to better practice and improved outcomes for children,” the report said.

It added: “The vast majority of social workers are positive about working for Lambeth and value the ‘relationship-based’ practice that the authority is promoting; social workers described feeling more motivated as a result. Leaders are in touch with the frontline and observe practice and talk directly to families during ‘practice week’.”

Uneven improvement

However, the report said improvement was still necessary as it had so far been “uneven” across different teams, and children were still experiencing changes of social worker which meant some “did not feel able to trust their current social worker”.

The council’s performance on adoption was still ‘inadequate’, inspectors said, with it not being considered early enough or with “sufficient urgency”.

“While some progress has been made in recent months, the systems for the early identification of children who may benefit from concurrent planning and foster-to-adopt placements are still in the very early stages of development.”

Annie Hudson, strategic director for children’s services, welcomed the report and said the service would build further on strengths identified in the report.

“This includes not compromising on the importance of securing timely permanence through adoption when appropriate.”

Ofsted recommended the service considers how to better engage young people, improve the frequency of management oversight and supervision, and improve the quality of assessments.

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