Significant improvements made in Luton Children’s Services

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In its first full inspection of our Children’s Services since 2020, Ofsted has concluded that significant improvements have been made and children in Luton now receive a much better service from the local authority.

Despite the catastrophic impact of COVID-19 and extremely challenging constraints in funding, the regulator believes that leaders and staff have still achieved tangible and significant progress since the last full inspection.

In its report, which was published today (Monday 5 September), Ofsted was positive about the performance of the local authority in a number of key areas. These include:

For children in need of help and protection:

  • children who need early help receive timely support and children and families benefit from a range of interventions
  • professionals take swift and effective action when concerns are raised about children through the significantly strengthened Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub

For children in care and care leavers:

  • most children in care now live in a stable home and the adoption service is strong
  • social workers understand and are aware of risks that children may be exposed to and provide good support to help them manage the impact of negative experiences
  • the council has risen to the challenge of providing accommodation and meeting the needs of significant numbers of unaccompanied asylum seeking children

The impact of leaders on social work practice:

  • the action of leaders has led to reduced caseloads and improved outcomes for many children
  • leaders have developed strong operational and strategic partnerships across Luton, helping to make sure that the right services are provided to children in need
  • the development of a Luton Social Work Academy providing ongoing support and mentoring for social workers has been central to the council’s programme for growing its own staff

While acknowledging the extreme difficulties and many challenges facing the service, Ofsted has highlighted some areas where further improvement is still required in order for the service to be rated as ‘Good’.

These are issues facing councils across the country: including the difficulty in retaining the council’s social care workforce; the quality and analysis of assessments of children and the consistency of support and pathway plans for care leavers.

The council is already taking action to address these issues, including:

  • a Workforce Development Strategy that ensures we have a robust training and development offer and a clear recruitment plan for how we address vacancies
  • the creation and ongoing development of the Social Work Academy, which has led to 35 social workers being appointed since it was established
  • new practice and quality assurance frameworks which are helping to improve the quality and consistency of social care practice
  • additional resources put into the service including a new team focused on looked after children and an independent reviewing officer to bring support and challenge to our practice

Cllr Tahmina Saleem, portfolio holder for children’s services, said: “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.

“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.

“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.”

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