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Significant improvements made in children's services two years after ‘Inadequate’ rating

Inspectors have upgraded Luton Borough Council’s children’s services to ‘Requires Improvement’ in its first full inspection since 2020.

06/09/22

Significant improvements made in children's services two years after ‘Inadequate’ rating

An Ofsted report published this week finds that significant improvements have been made at Luton Borough Council as the authority’s children’s services were upgraded to ‘Requires Improvement’.

Inspectors said children in Luton now receive a “much better service” than at the time of its previous inspection in 2020, which gave the local authority the lowest possible rating of ‘Inadequate’.

“Leaders and staff have achieved tangible and significant progress since the last inspection,” the report said, adding that, while improvements have been made, the impact is “not yet consistent for all children”.

Inspectors visiting the council in July this year praised the “well-managed ‘front door’” which ensures appropriate initial responses to children’s needs but says that variability remains in the quality and impact of social work assessments and the longer-term support provided to children and their families.

The children’s social care inspectorate said that leaders were aware of the challenges the council faced and had set in place plans to deliver greater consistency and improved workforce stability but acknowledged that “some children continue to experience the impact of changes of social worker”. Ofsted said that supervision of social workers is now taking place regularly, adding this is “not consistently driving improvements in practice, to impact positively and with pace on the lives of children.”

The council’s children’s services were graded ‘Good’ in its impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families, one of the four overarching categories, but were found to require improvement in its overall effectiveness and its work with children who need help and protection, and its work with children in care and care leavers.

While acknowledging the impact of COVID-19 and the “extremely challenging” funding constraints, Ofsted highlighted areas where further improvement is still required, such as the quality and impact of supervision, the stability of the workforce, and the quality of assessments.

The council said that it was already taking action to address these issues and that local authorities across the country were facing difficulties in retaining social workers.

Cllr Tahmina Saleem, who holds the portfolio for children’s services, said that more time would be needed to turn the service around.

“Despite the significant progress, we acknowledge we need to make further improvements so that all children in Luton can thrive and have the life opportunities they deserve. We remain completely focused upon continuing to make positive changes based on what Ofsted has told us and the improvement plans already in place.

“While it was always going to take time to completely turn the service around from where it was back in 2020, the report published today clearly states children and families in Luton are better supported, better protected and significant improvements have been made across the service.

“We can be proud of the significant progress we have made and it is absolutely right to acknowledge and thank our staff, partners and leadership team for their hard work, tenacious drive and extreme determination. Together they have delivered significant improvements across the service throughout what has been the most challenging of times during the pandemic.”

Last month, council leaders appealed to the government to help saying it was "under immense strain" with a projected overspend of £10m. Council leader Hazel Simmons said around £160 million had been taken from its budget in 12 years, and that inflationary pressures meant it was becoming more expensive to provide services that people needed.

Read the full Ofsted inspection report: https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/provider/44/80520

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