Bexley’s ‘outstanding’ Children’s Services

A recent Ofsted inspection of services for children, young people, families and carers in Bexley has judged the borough’s provision to be ‘Outstanding’!

Inspectors found that services for children, young people, families and carers had significantly improved since the previous inspection in 2014.

They commented in particular on the ambitious and effective work to protect children and to help families stay together where it is safe enough for this to be possible. For children and young people who are not able to live within their family networks and who are looked after by the Council, inspectors found that they are supported by social workers who know them well and who are making good plans with their families about their futures - writes bexley.gov.uk

Plans to further improve the support for young adults leaving the Council’s care were also said to be making a difference with leaders overseeing credible planning and change. The adoption service was marked out as being exceptional for its unrelenting focus on children’s needs and their support for adopters.

Overall the service in Bexley, was described as being underpinned by many skilled practitioners who know the families and young people well, and make effective relationships with them which are helping their lives to be better.

The workforce was found to be accomplished, stable, well supported by ambitious leaders and senior managers who have good insight into the effectiveness of the work and who work closely with partners to progress their vision about doing what is ‘right’ for children and their families.

The Council’s elected Members are praised in the report for their investment in children’s services and the report goes on to say Members are well-informed and understand and support the service.

The Ofsted visit took place over two weeks during July, fully engaging inspectors in observing practice, with families, carers, children and young people, as well as partners and professionals.

Bexley’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Cllr Philip Read said; “I am very proud of everyone involved for the work they are doing to support our children and their families. We have been on a continuous journey of improvement and Ofsted have recognised the progress we’ve made. Over the last four years we have put in place a number of innovations including developing our own Social Work Academy that not only encourages the best Newly Qualified Social Workers to come to Bexley, but makes them want to stay with us. At the same time, we have succeeded in attracting an increasingly capable and professional permanent workforce of experienced staff and reduced to a slender minimum what was an unhealthy reliance on expensive agency staff.

“Working in children’s social care is a calling and we are proud of our fabulous staff for they are what makes Children’s Services in Bexley a success. I know that this news will make everyone involved extremely happy and full of pride, and so it should.

“If you are an experienced or newly qualified social worker considering where to progress your career, please take a look at what we have on offer and come and join our ‘outstanding’ team.”

The Leader of Bexley Council, Cllr Teresa O’Neill OBE said; “This is great news and we can take a moment to enjoy this recognition of our outstanding service but in many ways the real challenge starts now and that is the challenge of sustaining and building further on this accolade. We know there are always areas we can improve and that each day, we face unique and challenging situations. Sadly things sometimes do go wrong but we are relentless in our wish to learn from those moments alongside our families, young people and partners.”

Bexley’s Director of Children’s Services, Jacky Tiotto said; “I would like to thank all our practitioners, managers and leaders who come to work every day to try and make a difference to someone’s life. I know they are so proud of this inspection result and I hope each and every one of them stays with us so that we can continue to do all we can to help children, their families and carers to enjoy their lives together.

There is a special ‘thank you’ I must make to the Director of Children’s Services in Essex, Helen Lincoln, who has supported and guided me over the three years we have been working to be the best we can be.”

Bexley’s Young Director of Children’s Services, Shannon Lidbury said; “I am a Bexley care leaver myself and every day I see the commitment to all young people. I know they do their 100% best whatever situation families and young people are in to find a better outcome. I love being a Bexley young adult and being the young director because I get a chance to influence now and for the future.”

Inits report, Ofsted gave the following assessment of Bexley’s Children’s Services -

• The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families - outstanding

• The experiences and progress of children who need help and protection - outstanding

• The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers - good

• Overall effectiveness – Outstanding

Detailed comments from the Ofsted report include -

“Highly effective help and support is provided from day one of an assessment. Family-based relationship work starts with the whole family network, supported and underpinned by a clear operating model.”

“Children feature highly on the council’s corporate plan, and elected members are well informed about and well connected in the performance framework. As a result, they know the quality of practice well. Significant investment has increased staffing numbers and protected early help services.”

“The family well-being service established in June 2016, together with a wide range of commissioned early help services, is providing highly effective help and support to children and families in Bexley.”

“…a safe and supportive place to work. The nurturing conditions created by leaders have enabled social work to flourish. The workforce is well supported to deliver the ethos of relationship-based social work. This is resulting in an increasingly stable workforce that feels valued.”

“Innovative approaches to engaging the partnership at both strategic and operational level have created conditions for effective multi-agency collaboration. A shared partnership vision and plan is closely aligned with new multi-agency guidance. “

“Leaders in Bexley have significantly improved the quality of services to children since the previous inspection. The ambition for children, and forward thinking and inspirational leadership are making a real difference.”

“Imaginative and creative direct work with children….including disabled children. Shared with parents.…This is a real strength.”

“Those children already known to services are provided with an opportunity to talk to a trusted adult in family wellbeing or targeted youth services.”

“Consultations and conversations are encouraged and take place between professionals to ensure that the right level of support is offered to children and families. Careful consideration is given to risks for children and which support systems and services would work best for children and families.”

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