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Ofsted inspectors find continued progress in latest visit

Council committed to providing extra focus on areas for improvement

The latest visit to Tower Hamlets by Ofsted has found continued improvement in Children’s Services with more work to be done in key areas.

Inspectors published their report today following their fourth visit to the council on 15 and 16 August which looked at the quality of care planning for children in care.

The visits are to monitor the council’s progress in delivering an improvement plan after its Children’s Services was rated as inadequate in April 2017. The council has set the ambitious target of achieving a good rating in 2019.

Previous visits have found progress to improve Children’s Services as ‘extremely encouraging’ with a ‘relentless focus’ by senior leaders.  Those visits looked at areas including the help and protection of vulnerable adolescents and management of services.

Some of the key findings from the latest visit include:

Improved performance management arrangements mean that senior leaders and frontline managers are very knowledgeable about service performance.

There has been ‘significant improvement’ in the work of social workers. Caseloads are manageable and children in care are seen regularly by social workers who know them well.

Long-term and short-term placement stability is beginning to improve. Better sufficiency planning is leading to increases in the availability and choice of placements. Additional support and training have enabled carers to look after older adolescents and children with disabilities.

The headteacher of the virtual school provides strong leadership and a clear strategic vision for improvement across all key stages and for children leaving care.

The letter also outlines areas that need focused attention. They include: a need for better management oversight of permanence planning; accelerating the changes in the looked after children’s service in the next phase of the improvement journey; more regular assessments for children in care and more health assessments to be completed within timescales the Corporate Director for Children’s Services is working on this last issue with the local clinical commissioning group . Ofsted also observed that in some areas the pace of change had not kept up with improvements across Children’s Services as a whole.

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said:

“The council is improving its children’s services at a rapid rate. This visit demonstrates continued progress. I am pleased with our overall improvement, but am clear that more work  is needed in some areas and at a faster rate.

“We are committed to making our children’s services the best they can possibly be and this inspection is the latest milestone on that journey.”

Cllr Danny Hassell Cabinet Member for Children, Schools and Young People said:

“We have been given very clear feedback from Ofsted about how we continue our improvement journey and keep vulnerable children safe with timely, effective decisions made on their care. We will work hard to accelerate that pace of change for our looked after children and ensure a relentless focus on improving in the areas that Ofsted have flagged to us.  We have already agreed an action plan specifically for this area of work and will be monitoring progress against this regularly.”

The visits, which took place in August, are the mid-point in the council’s improvement journey and the fourth of six monitoring visits by Ofsted tracking progress towards improvement in the councils Children’s services. These will culminate in a full inspection by September 2019.

Good rating

The council has set the ambitious target of achieving a ‘good’ rating in 2019 and is improving all aspects of the service through an improvement plan agreed by the Department for Education in June 2017.

The plan is implemented, monitored and updated on a monthly basis and is overseen by an independently chaired improvement board.

Every quarter, Ofsted visits to inspect progress in different areas of the service.