Child protection in Waltham Forest 'improving and adequate'

First published in East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Photograph of the Author by , Senior reporter

Child protection in Waltham Forest is continuing to improve in the wake of a damning report in 2011 but is still only adequate, a report has said.

Watchdog Ofsted carried out an unannounced inspection of the council's arrangements for protecting young people in January.

Its report, published this month, said the authority and its partners now had a firm understanding of its strengths and weaknesses.

Inspectors said there were no systematic failures but stated that councillors and the Waltham Forest Safeguarding Children Board (WFSCB) needed to strengthen their oversight and scrutiny of child protection.

They also raised a number of administrative concerns.

The report said: "Children and young people are appropriately protected through multi-agency plans and support which is well co-ordinated in multi-agency child protection conferences.

"However the quality of written plans, particularly for children in need which were on occasions too long and imprecise, requires improvement."

Inspectors also described the overall quality of social work assessments and direct work with children as adequate.

But they added that "the quality of practice was judged to be too variable, with some inadequate and some good examples seen by inspectors".

Concerns were also raised at the council's recruitment failures, with the report noting that many management posts were still filled by agency and interim staff.

The damning report of the council's children and young people department in the summer of 2011 found that a significant number of vulnerable youngsters had been put at risk of harm due to systematic failings.

In the wake of the report a senior officer left the department "by mutual consent", while the cabinet member responsible, Cllr Saima Mahmud, was moved to another portfolio in a reshuffle.

A follow-up Ofsted report later that autumn said improvements were being made, rating child safeguarding as adequate.

Inspectors said in the report published this month concluded that the trend of improvements was continuing but further work was needed before the service could be rated good.

They said: “The overall effectiveness of local authority arrangements to protect children in Waltham Forest is adequate.

“Significant improvements have been made since the last inspection of safeguarding services took place in 2011.”

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