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Improvements under way in Tower Hamlets’ failed children’s services, say Ofsted findings

PUBLISHED: 13:58 24 January 2018 | UPDATED: 13:05 30 January 2018

Tower Hamlets mayor puts failed children's services 'on the mend'. Picture: Mike Brooke

Tower Hamlets mayor puts failed children's services 'on the mend'. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Top council leaders are starting to “change the culture” in Tower Hamlets’ failing children’s services which were hit by government ‘intervention advisors’, according to Ofsted inspectors this week.

Mayor John  Biggs investing another £5m to improve East End's children's services. Picture: Mike BrookeMayor John Biggs investing another £5m to improve East End's children's services. Picture: Mike Brooke

Improvements have been noted following a two-day interim inspection which found “no children identified at risk of immediate harm”.

The turn-round follows widespread failures revealed in a shock Ofsted report last April which found too many youngsters “in situations of actual or potential harm” because of a lack of scrutiny by the council’s chief executive, the children’s services director and politicians.

The Education Secretary Justine Greening demanded improvements to the service which was hit by a safeguarding scandal when council officials were said to have been unaware if fostered children had been “trafficked or abandoned”.

The service was rated “inadequate” and advisors were brought in from Islington and Leicestershire local authorities.

Improvements now in hand, says Ofsted, for Tower Hamlets' Improvements now in hand, says Ofsted, for Tower Hamlets' "inadequate" children's services. Picture: Mike Brooke

Now Ofsted reports that town hall leaders and managers show “considerable determination, commitment and tenacity” to embed changes.

Its interim findings show senior leaders and elected members with “increasing knowledge of their strengths and weakness”.

Ofsted now finds “most children benefit from prompt allocation of cases to experienced social workers” with more robust processes beginning to make a difference for youngsters and their families.

“We identified many areas for improvement when I took office,” Mayor John Biggs said. “This Ofsted report shows we’re making significant progress.

Mayor John Biggs and his chief executive Will Tuckley who was named in an Ofsted report in 2017 into failing children's services. Picture: Mike BrookeMayor John Biggs and his chief executive Will Tuckley who was named in an Ofsted report in 2017 into failing children's services. Picture: Mike Brooke

“But I know there is still work to be done and we won’t be complacent in bringing our services up to standard.”

An improvement plan agreed with the Department of Education sets the target of moving to a “good rating” by April next year.

Ofsted’s interim report, meanwhile, outlines areas that “need continued attention”, although it recognises managers are prioritising to improve “weaker areas of practice”.

Amy Whitelock Gibbs, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We know there is much more to do, but it’s good that Ofsted recognises our determination to embed these changes.”

The council is putting another £5.2m into children’s services on top of the £4.6m last year. Improvements now under way include a single point of contact for ‘early help’ services and setting up a “social work academy” for improving working practices.

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