Last week Ofsted, the inspector of Schools and Children’s Services, published findings from its most recent monitoring visit to Croydon’s social care team, which took place on 19 and 20 February 2019. They have again highlighted the serious challenges the Labour-run Council faces – and how far it is away from achieving the ‘Good’ rating which neighbouring Bromley Council achieved following its initial ‘Inadequate’ rating.
Inspectors were particularly concerned about the service provided to children whose care package is stepped down. They commented,
‘There is a lack of focus and purpose, with insufficient analysis, some drift or delay in response, and a limited sense of the child’s identity or needs. For a small minority of children, the service remains very poor. This is compounded by staff turnover, which impacts on the quality of the social work relationship. ‘
Despite the extra financial resources being put into the department Inspectors were also concerned about high staff turnover and highlighted the fact that staff supervision was still poor.
‘Not all staff receive regular supervision. Staff have found ‘workarounds’ to manage if supervision is not taking place regularly, either by using the skill and expertise of colleagues or by seeking out managers for immediate case direction. Senior managers are aware of the need to embed a culture of a protected space to have reflective supervision and they have already begun to ensure that this is available and is seen as a priority for staff. There is evidence of management oversight on the vast majority of children’s records, but this varies from fully reflective and analytical discussion through to a briefer factual list of actions.’
Inspectors were positive about the changes at a senior management level but said it was too early to gauge the impact of these changes.
‘A permanent executive director and a permanent director of early help and children’s social care have recently taken up posts in Croydon. They have quickly and accurately evaluated the current quality of practice, and they have identified appropriate priorities for improvement, although it is too soon to gauge the impact.’
Councillor Maria Gatland, the Conservatives’ spokesperson on Children’s Services, commented on the inspection, saying,
“This is by far the best report Ofsted has delivered on the department since its original inspection 18 months ago found the Children’s Services provided by the Labour run Council to be ‘inadequate’, the lowest possible rating. However, Croydon Labour is still a long way away from providing the ‘Good’ service that our children deserve.“
“I have spent a lot of time with officers and staff over the last few months, they are all working remarkably hard and this more positive report is credit to them, especially the Executive Director and Director of Early Years and Children’s Social Care whose energy has made a real difference in the last few months. Staff morale is definitely improving.”
“There is no doubt though that with the resources poured into the department and the support of Camden Council, the service SHOULD be improving. Bromley Council showed it is possible to move from Inadequate to Good. The question is whether Croydon’s Labour administration has learned enough to make the same improvement. Sadly it looks doubtful at the moment.”