Services for children in Croydon are improving faster, as ‘clear strategic direction’ and ‘dedicated focus on frontline practice’ ensures that ‘the experience of the child is at the centre’ of social care, Ofsted inspectors have found.
Ofsted has today (14 March) published in a letter its findings from its most recent visit to Croydon, which took place on 19 and 20 February 2019. The monitoring visit was the fifth since the borough’s Ofsted inspection in 2017. The report can be read in full here.
Inspectors found that the children’s social care team in Croydon is ‘continuing to make progress’ and ‘the pace of improvement has accelerated recently’. They particularly highlight the positive impact of the new senior leadership team in children’s social care, noting that the new executive director and director have ‘quickly identified key issues and have acted promptly to make changes’.
This ‘clear strategic direction’ has had a positive impact on staff morale, with social workers demonstrating ‘increasing confidence’ in the improvement journey, they note. During the visit, social workers were also positive about a reduction in their caseloads, which gives them more time to spend with children and families.
Inspectors noted that senior leaders are beginning to create a culture ‘with the experience of the child at the centre’, reflecting Croydon’s determination to put children and young people at the heart of their improvement journey.
At their visit, inspectors focused on the progress and experiences of children and families receiving early help services, and those whose cases had been ‘stepped down’ following an assessment that risks had been reduced.
Croydon’s Early Help Partnership is transforming the way it supports families with a new locality-based, co-ordinated approach, which is bringing agencies together to offer children and families the right help, at the right time, in their own communities. While inspectors felt it was too soon to fully evaluate the impact of these recent changes, they found ‘it is clear that most children and families who are in receipt of early help are being well-supported’. The report states: ‘There is a clear focus on children’s wishes and feelings and the progress and experiences of different children in the same family are carefully considered’.
While they highlighted many examples of improvement, inspectors also highlighted the need for greater consistency among practice, to ensure that all children are receiving the same high standards of social care. Inspectors noted steps had been taken to improve consistency of support for children who return home from care to live with their families. Staff recruitment and retention remain areas for action, and the council continues to address these as a priority.
“This is a very encouraging report. Early help is so important – strengthening our children and families with the support they need, at the earliest stage, we can often avoid statutory intervention later. It’s good that Ofsted have noted the positive changes we are making. I’m particularly pleased that they found that we are putting children and young people at the heart of all we do as for me, it is this that will make the real difference to the way we support families long term.
We do still need to do more, as I want every child and young person to experience the high quality service they deserve. We have to keep on getting better, and keep up our investment and our pace.”
Councillor Alisa Flemming, cabinet member for children, young people and learning