Havering responds to ‘Inadequate’ Ofsted children’s services inspection

Published: Friday, 16 February 2024

Major improvement plans have been strengthened by Havering Children’s Services after it was rated as ‘Inadequate’ by government regulators, Ofsted.

A team of inspectors carried out a two-week on-site inspection of services between 11 and 22 December 2023. 

The Ofsted inspectors found that Havering’s Children’s Services, which had previously been rated as ‘Good’ in 2018, has deteriorated over a number of years and have now been judged to be ‘Inadequate’. 

Inspectors acknowledged that the local authority have a good understanding of the areas for improvement and had appropriate plans in place to address concerns before the inspection took place.

However, the majority of social workers in Havering have complex and higher than average caseloads due to the growth in demand for services.

As a result, they found that too many children and young people waited too long for the support they needed.

The wait and ‘poor management oversight and supervision across social work teams, coupled with a weak reviewing service have led to widespread drift and delay for too many children.’

Inspectors noted that the recently appointed permanent director of children’s services had quickly identified the areas that needed improvement and taken steps to address them, but that ‘substantial resources are needed to deliver core statutory services.’

Councillor Oscar Ford, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said:

“We accept the findings of the report and we are sorry that some of our children and young people have had to wait too long for support.

"The safeguarding and wellbeing of our children and young people has always been, and will continue to be, a top priority for the Council.

“As recognised by Ofsted, we now have a robust improvement plan in place, as well as the focused support of officers and cross-party political leadership to turn things around and get them right. 

“A number of factors have led us to this position. This includes our unprecedented increase in Havering’s child population with the fourth fastest growing 0-14 population in the country, which also includes a significant increase in the number of children with special educational needs. 

“This has led to a significant rise in demand for our services with no increase in government funding. This is coupled with a chronic shortage of social workers nationally and difficulties attracting new staff locally.

“The current funding formula and use of the 2011 data that has caused years of underfunding, plus the effect of Covid, the complexity of children’s needs and rising levels of inflation and other costs, have had a major impact on how we provide our services.”

The report recognises that the Council had already implemented an improvement plan, which includes:

  • an £11 million increase in funding by the Council between 2018-23 and a further £17 million since and through the next financial year
  • a review of the service structures to provide increased staff capacity
  • improved quality assurance processes across all services
  • development of a staff training programme to improve the identified areas.

The report did praise a number of areas including the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) which it described as ‘responsive and effective’, with safeguarding partners working in the same office, described as a strength, with good information-sharing and early identification of urgent matters leading to a timely response for children at risk of harm.  

The report also praised the effective local authority designated officer who handles safeguarding issues against professionals working with children.

There were positive comments on the support to care leavers with staff keeping in touch with them, which is a strength in Havering. 

It goes on to say how care leavers speak warmly about the value of The Cocoon, a safe space in Romford for care experienced young people.

Although the inspection highlighted some areas for improvement that the local authority was not fully aware of, the immediate response has been decisive and robust, the report said.

Councillor Ford added:

“The improvement plan will help us to carry out the important changes we need to turn around Children’s Services. 

“We realise it has been a challenging time for our workforce and we are focused on ensuring that staff have stronger management and supervision with increased capacity to improve the standard of the service. 

“Overall, this will make the quality of life better for the children and young people that we are responsible for in our borough.”

Children’s Services will meet Ofsted inspectors and the Department for Education at the end of March when they will present their updated improvement plan in response to the judgement.  

Quarterly reviews will be carried out and a follow-up inspection is then expected to take place following a period of monitoring.

Full findings can be found by going to the Ofsted Havering report webpage.