Tower Hamlets’ struggling children’s services improving — but more work needed, says Ofsted

Tower Hamlets Council. Picture: Mike Brooke

Tower Hamlets Council. Picture: Mike Brooke - Credit: Archant

“Considerable weaknesses” remain in Tower Hamlets’ struggling children’s services despite improvements, according to Ofsted inspectors yesterday.

Care planning for children in care “is still too variable”, inspectors noted after their fourth monitoring visit since the borough was judged “inadequate” overall in April last year.

The damning report in 2017 revealed widespread failings including a lack of oversight leaving too many youngsters “in situations of actual or potential harm”.

Roping in advisors from local authorities Islington and Leicestershire, the council committed to overhaul the service into one rated “good” in 2019.

“In summary, inspectors found progress in many areas of practice with children in care,” inspector Brenda McLaughlin wrote in a letter to Debbie Jones, director of children’s services, following the latest check, which took place over two days last month.

“Senior leaders accept inspectors’ findings and they are taking action to address the significant deficits identified during this visit.”

The letter, dated September 10, said barely one fifth (22 per cent) of health assessments for children who come into care are completed on time, a figure which “has not improved” since last year.

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Many of these youngsters have “suffered abuse and neglect”, meaning that their immediate health needs “are not understood quickly enough”.

Ms Jones is working on this issue with the local clinical commissioning group, the letter adds.

While council leaders were taking appropriate steps to address the “significant deficits” in services for children in care, further work was needed improving the oversight of “permanence planning”, making health assessments more regular and completed on time, as well as speeding up improvements in some areas to match the pace of change across the overall department.

“The council is improving its children’s services at a rapid rate,” said mayor John Biggs.

“This visit demonstrates continued progress. I am pleased with our overall improvement, but am clear that more work is needed in some areas and at a faster rate.

“We are committed to making our children’s services the best they can possibly be and this inspection is the latest milestone on that journey.”

Previous visits looked at areas such as helping and protecting vulnerable adolescents and how services are managed.