Ofsted inspectors have ruled that Croydon Council cannot be trusted to run its own Children’s Services department without outside supervision for at least another two years.
The decision has been announced following the second review visit from Ofsted which was carried out in March.
Last July, an Ofsted inspection found Croydon’s Children’s Services “inadequate”, and that they left some of the borough’s most vulnerable children at risk of serious harm.
In one case, according to a report from another local authority, failings of Croydon’s Children’s Services department may have been contributory factors leading to the brutal death of two-year-old toddler, Jeremiah Regis-Ngaujah, in 2016.
Since September, Croydon’s Children’s Services has been overseen by a Whitehall-appointed commissioner, Eleanor Brazil, who in December recommended that a team from another local authority should be brought in to sort out the mess.
Now, Ofsted has ruled that those social workers, from Camden, will need to stay in Croydon at least until 2020.
The latest Ofsted inspection chose to focus on the quality of practice for vulnerable adolescents, which it found to be “highly variable and, in some cases, remains inadequate”.
“The extent and detail of risk and response are not always fully analysed and explored for many children who face the highest risk,” the inspectors say in their report.
“Too many children receive an inadequate service,” they add.
Adolescents were subjected to “some examples of inappropriate use of language or terminology that implied that children placed themselves at risk”.
And the social workers’ written records and action plans, the inspectors found, lacked “clarity in identifying the specific risks and clearly outlining what needs to happen to reduce risk. Written plans are generally of a poor quality, and are brief and generalised without specifically identifying risks. Written records are highly variable in quality and content”.
The report did include some praise for the efforts made by council staff so far, saying that, “In a relatively short period of time, senior leaders have started to put in place an effective infrastructure… Senior managers recognise the scale of the improvement task and are planning effectively. The openness to advice, guidance and support is positive. This has meant that, relatively quickly, Croydon has acted on recommendations from the first monitoring visit…” and “… formed an effective and well-focused partnership with Camden”.
The Ofsted inspectors’ report will have been considered by the council’s improvement board last month. Last week, it was announced that Barbara Peacock, the council’s £170,000 per year exec director responsible for Children’s Services, would be leaving her job as a result of “restructuring”. Which is one euphemistic way of putting it.
Today’s Croydon Council press release to announce the latest developments chose to characterise the Ofsted inspectors’ findings as:
“Swift action from Croydon Council has already resulted in some significant improvements in children’s social care”.
The council’s press office failed to mention the bits about “highly variable” and “inadequate” performance.
Not until the end of the council’s press statement – which is likely was issued with the approval of council CEO Jo Negrini and Labour council leader Tony Newman – did it reveal that the Department for Education has issued an order that Camden Council social workers are to continue to supervise their Croydon colleagues for another two years.
In a Statutory Direction published yesterday, the Secretary of State for Education approved the peer support proposal from Eleanor Brazil. It marks the end of her term as commissioner in Croydon.
“Croydon’s Children’s Services Improvement Board will continue to oversee the improvement journey, with Ofsted carrying out quarterly monitoring visits, while the DfE reviews progress at six-monthly intervals,” Croydon Council said.
Maria Gatland, the Conservative councillor who has been their cabinet member for Children’s Services, after reviewing the report, said, “I am pleased that the quality of frontline staff has been recognised as I have seen how hard working and dedicated they are. However the inspectors found the quality of service to vulnerable adolescents to be highly variable and in some cases remain inadequate
“I am particularly concerned about the service for children who are missing and those at risk of sexual exploitation.
“Inspectors remain concerned about managerial oversight and report an urgent need for improved management oversight as well as staff turnover.”
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