The Ofsted Interview: ‘Data is nothing about numbers and everything about individual children’

How one London borough improved quality assurance and developed effective partnerships to achieve a 'good' rating from Ofsted

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Photo: fotolia/Jenny Sturm

Children’s services at Waltham Forest council has been judged ‘good’ overall by Ofsted in its latest inspection, conducted earlier this year.

Ofsted highlighted the sensitivity of the service’s social workers towards the diversity of culture, religion and ethnicity within the London borough, while the response to vulnerable adolescents was considered “strong”, with “excellent” multi-agency working in relation to children who go missing, children at risk of child sexual exploitation and other contextual safeguarding concerns.

“The local authority is aware of the potential effects of increases in demand and the consequent impact on social workers’ caseloads, and there are plans to address this issue,” Ofsted said.

Meanwhile, the service’s senior leadership team was deemed ‘outstanding’ by the watchdog, with inspectors particularly noting significant improvements in quality assurance, including a “a significant number of relevant audits relating to a wide range of types of service delivery”. Senior managers were said to know the quality of frontline practice “very well”, informed by “relevant performance information and enhanced by shadowing workers, observing practice and engaging with young people in a meaningful way”.

In the latest episode of Community Care’s The Ofsted Interview podcast series, Waltham Forest council’s service divisional director for children and families, Heather Flinders, discusses how the local authority approached preparation for its latest Ofsted inspection, the development of effective partnerships and how effective quality assurance and performance management is achieved.

Listen to Flinders discuss how the service is looking at its approach to dealing with vulnerable adolescents – including its gang intervention programmes – and how the council has achieved a significant improvement in services for children in care and care leavers, below or subscribe to the series on iTunes, and read our quick table for the key findings from Ofsted’s inspection.

 

Highlights from the Ofsted inspection: Waltham Forest council

Area of service Ofsted inspection findings 2019
The experience and progress of children who need help and protection Good: Social workers recognise and respond when concerns for children escalate. Within strategy discussions, partner agency information is well considered, and historical factors are appropriately considered. The rationale for decision-making to minimise risk is clear, although, in a minority of discussions, there is inconsistent recording of timescales for the completion of actions. Strategy meetings are held consistently when children and young people are missing or at risk of exploitation.
The experience and progress of children who need help and protection Good: Children assessed to be at risk from domestic abuse receive effective interventions to safeguard their welfare. There is a range of strong and flexible services provided for children and adults. Social workers appropriately assess the risks associated with domestic abuse and honour-based violence. This information is well analysed, and results in sustained interventions.
The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers Good: The local authority model of practice draws on families’ strengths, focusing on maintaining children in their families wherever possible. An effective range of edge of care services, such as the intensive adolescent support team and the functional family therapy team, provide effective individualised support to enable children and young people to live safely within their families and communities.
The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers Good: Reviews for children in care are purposeful and held in a timely manner. Children and young people’s views are clearly taken into account and they are actively encouraged to participate. The reviews are sensitively written to children, explaining their journey into care and the plans which are being made with them. Oversight of children’s progress by independent reviewing officers is good and is recorded well in children’s records.
The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families Outstanding: Senior managers know the quality of frontline practice very well, informed by relevant performance information and enhanced by shadowing workers, observing practice and engaging with young people in a meaningful way. Sound decisions, taken with the right level of confidence and authority, ensure that children receive the right level of service when they first need it.
The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families Outstanding: Quality assurance activity has much improved since the previous inspection. The local authority undertakes a significant number of relevant audits relating to a wide range of types of service delivery. Trends and themes from audits are used very effectively to inform the training and development programme. Actions from audits are identified, with routine follow up to ensure that they are completed. Social workers are appropriately involved in the completion of audits to help their understanding of what constitutes good or outstanding practice. This contributes to an environment where good social work practice can flourish.
Overall effectiveness Good: Leaders have made strong progress to establish a resilient, sustainable and child-focused service. This is underpinned by strong, effective political and corporate support. They share with partner agencies a clear, ambitious vision and core values. Leaders know their services and areas for development and use this knowledge to improve the quality of practice and outcomes.
Overall effectiveness Good: Children, young people and their families receive the right level of services when they need them. Multi-agency working is well developed and contributes to achieving good outcomes for children. Thresholds are well understood, and assessments are mostly appropriately analytical. However, the quality of children’s plans are variable, and they do not consistently articulate how the needs of children will be met.
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