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Children and young people, Social care

Council leading national drive to provide “outstanding” care for the most vulnerable children

Children who have suffered domestic abuse and neglect are receiving “outstanding” care from a council and its partners, an independent probe has revealed.

Lambeth is currently the only local authority in England to have received the highest possible praise for both its safeguarding and work with looked after children in reports published on Ofsted’s website this week.

Despite limited resources in a borough where a third of residents already live on the breadline, services to the most vulnerable residents have gone from strength to strength.

Councillor Rachel Heywood, Lambeth’s cabinet member for children and families, said: “This is an amazing result for all the dedicated staff whose work often goes on behind the scenes and without wider recognition.

“We are delighted to have been found to be leading the way nationally in working with the most vulnerable residents.

“Never before has our challenge been greater as we work with ever-decreasing resources. But together with our partners we share a common determination that we must never fail vulnerable children.

“It is a moral and legal duty that we prioritise above all others.

“This truly exceptional outcome is due to the hard work, dedication and diligence of staff across the partnership who work every day to improve the lives of our most vulnerable children and young people.”

Results from a wide-ranging review of child protection and safeguarding arrangements for looked after children and care leavers in Lambeth were published this week.

The Ofsted investigation, carried out by five inspectors, involved visits to a number of organisations within the borough – including Lambeth council, NHS Lambeth, and three major NHS Foundation Trusts – to determine risks to vulnerable children.

In Lambeth a multi-agency Local Safeguarding Children Board brings together organisations that work to keep children safe.

“Partnership work is outstanding and it is implicit within all the work of the borough, leading to demonstrable improvements in outcomes for children and young people,” the inspection report said.

Inspectors interviewed more than 232 workers including front line staff, managers and senior officers from Lambeth council, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust, King’s College Hospital Trust, the South London and Maudsley Trust, together with volunteers and community groups.

In total, 118 service users including children in care, parents and foster carers were interviewed. A further 67 “case files” of children and young people with various ranges of needs were examined.

Overall, the work was graded as “outstanding” with inspectors judging the work “significantly exceeded” minimum requirements.

There are 59,389 children and young people aged under 19 years old in Lambeth, which is ranked 15th in Britain for child poverty levels.

Three in ten children under 17 live in families claiming out of work benefits, or 18,615 youngsters.

At the time of the inspection 495 children and young people were being looked after by Lambeth council.

That total included 97 children under-five and 322 school-age children.

There were more than 200 children subject to child protection plans for reasons ranging from domestic abuse to neglect.  Of those at risk youngsters, 184 were between newborns and 11 years old.

“Despite significant reductions in the budget, front line services have been protected and there are sufficient numbers of qualified and experienced staff,” the inspection report said.

Key findings:

Safeguarding Services

–           The effectiveness of the council and its partners in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people is outstanding.

–           The ability of the council and its partners to anticipate and plan for the future is excellent.

–           Front line services have been protected despite significant reductions in the budget.

–           Issues of equality and diversity are addressed very well at both a strategic and operational level.

–           Strong leadership and a shared vision have resulted in a strong track record of improving services to meet the changing needs of the borough.

–           Performance management is robust and targets are ambitious and services are regularly reviewed.

–           Partnership work is outstanding and leads to improvements in outcomes for children and young people.

–           Staff are proud to work for Lambeth and staff turnover is low. Training and support for staff is excellent and managers at all levels are visible and approachable.

–           The quality of work with children is good. Referrals receive a timely response and assessments contain good analysis.

–           Children and young people in Lambeth largely feel safe. A range of interventions are appropriately targeted on preventing children and young people becoming involved in gangs or being victims of gang violence, while also targeting those who are already involved in serious youth violence.

Children Looked After Services

–           The overall effectiveness of services for looked after children, young people and are leavers is outstanding.

–           The corporate parenting board acts as an effective driver to improve services. Children and young people have confidence that their corporate parents will do the best for them.

–           Visions of Success, Lambeth’s children in care council is a forceful and effective group who ensure that the voice of children and young people is heard at all levels.

–           The outcomes for children and young people in respect of staying safe, making a positive contribution and economic well-being are all outstanding and being healthy and enjoying and achieving are good.

–           Workers and managers are skilled and know their children and young people well.

–           The number of children looked after has reduced as a result of services to children on the cusp of care and the increase in adoptions and special guardianship orders

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