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More to do to improve children’s services, say inspectors

Twelve months on from the original report, child protection services in Kingston are still inadequate despite significant improvements according to independent inspectors.

Rapid action has improved safety for children and young people in Kingston but there is more to do, according to a report published today by Ofsted.

Ofsted, the body which inspects and regulates care services for children and young people, visited Kingston Council unannounced in June to look at how well the council and other local organisations help and protect them.

The visit followed a critical Ofsted report in July last year which found Kingston wanting in a number of areas and inadequate in the overall effectiveness of its children’s safeguarding service. Kingston Council launched an improvement plan immediately to sort out the problems and to turn things around.

Ofsted’s latest report says that Kingston’s children’s services are “still at an early stage of the improvement journey” with “solid foundations” for establishing the service in relation to strategic planning, policy implementation and the restructuring of services.

Inspectors found that the work done by social workers to understand children’s needs and make sure they are protected is improving overall. For example, a social work team manager now oversees all contacts coming in to children’s services, a third team of child protection social workers have been recruited to ensure a timely response to child protection concerns, and the numbers of child protection conferences have doubled without loss of timeliness.

Ofsted highlights several areas where the council is adequate or good, including:
  • when the council gets clear information about a child that needs protection it does something straight away and this is much better than before
  • professionals that work with children have a better understanding of when and how they should report their concerns to the council
  • there is some good direct work being done by social workers, family support workers and key workers with children and families
  • there is a wide range of early help services available and these are now working together to ensure families get a better service than before.
Some of the things Ofsted says need to improve further include:
  • making sure that children’s and young people’s views are heard at important meetings about their future because very few children attend and they are not always offered the support they need to attend
  • making sure that children are always seen alone when carrying out social work assessments
  • the council needs to continue to recruit high-quality, permanent social workers.

"A lot of work still to be done"

“Our staff have worked hard over the last year in a positive and professional manner to put improvement measures in place which are beginning to turn things around.

“We welcome Ofsted’s scrutiny of our rigorous efforts to address the issues and problems we need to in order to return to providing the best possible services for children and young people.”

Councillor Liz Green, Leader of Kingston Council

“I am pleased that Ofsted have been able to see the early progress we have made despite the earliness of their revisit. We are all working hard to provide the very highest levels of safeguarding for children and young people and our improvement measures are beginning to have a positive effect. There is a lot of work still to be done, though, and a long way to go to get things right again.

“We are determined to get back to the excellent level of service that young people and their families expect from us. We are making good progress but it will take years, not months.”

Nick Whitfield, Kingston Council’s Director of Children’s Services

The full Ofsted report can be found at http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/local-authorities/kingston-upon-thames.