Ofsted has rated Tower Hamlets Council’s Children’s Service as ‘good’, just two years after the service was given an ‘inadequate’ rating.
It represents ‘remarkable progress’ according to Ofsted after the council set an ambitious target of achieving the good rating following the previous inspection in 2017. (A rating of ‘needs improvement’ sits between inadequate and good).
Back then, the council was rebuilding itself after the government had sent in Commissioners following the removal of the previous Mayor in 2015.
The good rating is another example of how Tower Hamlets Council has been transformed over the past few years.
Following the inadequate rating, the council created an improvement plan which was agreed by the Department for Education (DfE) and overseen by an independently chaired improvement board.
In its report published today following a full inspection last month, Ofsted noted the ‘remarkable progress achieved since its inspection in 2017.’ Its findings include that children and families receive good help when they need it, especially those most vulnerable; that children in care and care leavers are also given the best chance in life to succeed; and that caseloads are manageable and staff are knowledgeable and supportive.
Ofsted said: “Services for children in Tower Hamlets are now good and have substantially improved since they were found to be inadequate in 2017. Since then, leaders and managers have had a relentless focus to improve practice to deliver good experiences and progress for children and their families.”
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “I am delighted that Ofsted has given our Children’s Services a good rating. When I was first elected we inherited significant problems which we were working to fix. Ofsted’s inspection in 2017 highlighted just how necessary this work was and since then we have focused the council on transforming the way that we support vulnerable young people.
“It was really important that we owned the problems and from the start we set out to achieve a good rating. It has been extremely challenging to achieve this but children in Tower Hamlets deserved nothing less.
“I want to pay tribute to our staff and our partners who have been relentless in their focus to turn the service around. It has been a monumental effort to do it in just over two years.”
Debbie Jones, Corporate Director, Children and Culture said:
“Two years ago we were rated inadequate because children and families were not getting the support they needed.
“We took a root and branch approach to changing that and it has taken a huge amount of hard graft, commitment and determination.
“We will not be complacent after our good rating. In fact, this is another step on our road to outstanding.”
Innovating and leading
The council’s Children’s Services is now at the forefront in developing ways to improve services, along with its workforce.
In December, it launched a Social Work Academy to help tackle the shortage of social workers. It is the first programme of its type nationally to include a three-year newly qualified social worker programme.
The academy has already contributed to improved retention of social workers. In June 2018turnover stood at 33%. By May 2019 it had reduced to just 8.9%. Social worker caseloads are also down. In April 2017 the average caseload for a social worker was over 25. By May 2019 the average caseload was 16.
The council’s foster care service has also been recognised for excellent work. In October, one of the council’s foster carers Afia Choudhury was awarded The Fostering Network’s President’s Award for her exceptional contribution to fostering. Afia has provided a loving home to almost 30 children over the past 13 years, as well as supporting hundreds of other foster carers with the council.
Will Tuckley, Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets Council said: “We are proud to have achieved another endorsement of our work to rebuild the council.
“Over the past 18 months the Government has praised our significant improvement and removed its direction, a Local Government Association Peer Review found we had improved the organisation’s culture, and we have won many awards for our work including a silver rating from Investors in People.
“Now we have achieved our target of a good rating for Children’s Services which also means that the DfE direction on Children’s Services is lifted as of today.
“We are not stopping here. Our ambition is nothing less than to become a leading local authority and achieve the best we can for our residents and businesses.”
Councillor Danny Hassell, Cabinet Member for Children, Schools and Young People said: “We want to give every chance for every child to have the best possible start in life. I am proud that Ofsted recognise we are doing the right things to ensure children and their families are both safe and supported.
“We have created the right environment for success, with a culture of high expectations and focus on performance. We are also fortunate to have these services delivered by amazing staff who go the extra mile every day for the children and families of our borough.”