Croydon social workers ‘demoralised’, say Ofsted inspectors

One year on and Ofsted inspectors are still seriously dissatisfied with the pace of improvement in Croydon’s children’s services department.

Slow progress: Tony Newman and Alisa Flemming have failed to implement the required changes in children’s services

Croydon’s children’s services were declared “inadequate” in an Ofsted inspectors’ report in September 2017, and today the inspectors have issued their latest update, following their visit – their fourth – which took place earlier this month.

According to Ofsted, morale among social work staff is very low, while a high turnover of staff continues to be a problem in providing stability, for the staff and the children they work for, and continuity of service.

This is despite Croydon’s Labour-run council throwing an extra £5million (at least) at the children’s services department in the past 12 months, mainly to recruit more social workers.

Yet social workers’ caseloads remain excessively high, leading to low frequency of visits to clients, the inspectors note. Their report states, “Social workers … report an unsettled period. This is reflected in staff turnover and some staff report that they feel demoralised about working in the service.”

Not that you would know that if you only read Croydon Council’s press release, issued today.

“Ofsted has confirmed that Croydon is making progress in improving services for children and young people,” the council press release crowed.

“During a monitoring visit carried out at the start of this month, inspectors found that social workers ‘show a high degree of commitment to the children they work with and they are proud of each child’s achievements’.” Which is nice, but which hardly reflects the overall tone of the inspectors’ report.

Senior figures in Katharine Street today expressed their concern about the way in which the withering criticism from Ofsted, for the second visit inside three months, has somehow been brushed away, in a clumsy effort to avoid any criticism of the political leadership.

“They appear to want to deny that there’s a problem at all,” said one.

“Of course the children’s service’s department is making ‘progress’,” another senior Town Hall figure told Inside Croydon. “That’s because, when the inspectors were here in 2017, what they found was a department which was putting children at serious risk of harm. It could not possibly have got any worse.

“But Ann Waterman, the inspector who has written today’s report, was also here in July, and her findings this time round echo what she said before: there’s not enough progress being made, and it is not being made quickly enough.”

One year since the damning Ofsted report, and council leader Tony Newman may not have much to be proud about if the inspectors’ latest visit is anything to go by

Jo “We’re Not Stupid” Negrini, the council’s £200,000 per year chief executive, has said nothing on the findings of the latest Ofsted visit.

Council leader Tony Newman, usually so quick to publicly claim credit for anything resembling positive news, has also not issued any public statement. His recent social media activity includes a single-word tweet, “#Proud”, from an awards event for children and young people in care staged on Wednesday.

It is now more than a year since the children’s services department was placed in special measures by Ofsted after it discovered vulnerable children at risk of “significant harm” and found “widespread and serious failures”.

This latest update has several similarities to Waterman’s previous report from August. Then, she and her inspectors found children left in “neglectful circumstances” for too long.

Croydon’s children’s services’ pace of improvement is still not quick enough, according to Waterman. Social workers have caseloads typically of 14 to 15 children, which is better than the 20 or more some had to cope with earlier this year, but remains well above the 10 to 12 cases which is recommended.

Three social work teams still lack permanent managers which, Waterman notes, provides “some potential instability”.

She wrote, “Some staff feel that their caseloads are hard to manage, due to the complexity of casework, the need to ‘catch up’ with historic actions, and processes and systems that do not support their work sufficiently.”

Croydon’s children’s services are now being supervised by a team of specialist social workers brought in from Camden earlier this year, but even that intervention does not seem to be enough to ensure the safety of the borough’s vulnerable children and teenagers.

The Ofsted report does note some areas of improvement, and says, “Most children are well placed and benefit from secure and stable placements.”

But dissatisfaction overall remains with the efficiency with which casework is handled. “Some children in care are experiencing drift and delay in securing their permanence arrangements,” the inspectors state.

“Practice is generally better for children who have come into care more recently, although more urgency is needed to prevent drift in securing permanency.”

And the report concludes, “In summary, progress has been made, but this is not yet having the required outcome and impact for all children in care.”

You can read the October 2018 Ofsted inspectors’ report in full here, as you won’t find it anywhere on the council website.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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