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Direction lifted as London borough's children's services 'vastly improved'

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A statutory direction issued to Bromley LBC over failures in children’s services has been lifted after an Ofsted inspector advised performance has “vastly improved”.

Inspector Dawn Godfrey visited the council in November last year and has now reported the local authority is “making a profound difference to improving the lives of children in Bromley”.

Bromley received an ‘outstanding’ rating for the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families and a ‘good’ rating for all other benchmarks in children’s services, including overall effectiveness.

The report marks a dramatic turnaround at the authority, which became the subject of central government intervention after an Ofsted report published in June 2016 described “widespread and serious failures” and found children’s services to be inadequate across all categories.

The report led to the appointment of Frankie Sulke as commissioner for children’s services in the borough. While the council retained control of children’s services, it has been required to provide quarterly updates to central government on progress to improve its performance.

In a report published in September 2017, Sulke advised that “good progress” was being made and recommended that the council be allowed to retain control of the service.

According to the latest Ofsted report: “Since the last inspection in 2016, when children’s services were judged to be inadequate, there has been a new and highly experienced senior leadership team which has driven a rapid and sustained pace of improvement, supported by a whole-council investment in children’s services.

“This has led to vastly improved services for children and families. The executive director and his team, together with strong corporate support from members, have ensured an unwavering focus on continuous improvement. Staff at every level have high aspirations for the children who receive services in Bromley.”

Ofsted made a series of recommendations for further improvements which included making better use of return home interviews, the provision of information to homeless 16 and 17-year-olds, school attendance among secondary-aged children in care, and support for care leavers.

Peter Fortune, Bromley’s executive member for children and families, welcomed the findings. “To go from where Bromley children’s services were two years ago when Ofsted judged them inadequate to a position of strength with ‘outstanding’ leadership, and a ‘good’ overall rating across all services is unheard of in this time frame,” he said.

A separate Ofsted report on children’s services at Essex CC awarded the council an ‘outstanding’ rating in three out of four performance categories.

Inspector Tara Geere said the council had made improvements since its last inspection in 2014, praising “inspirational senior leaders” and “a well-trained, highly skilled workforce”.

Dick Madden, Essex’s cabinet member for children and families, said the authority had “invested in our staff, improved practice and developed innovative methods” to secure an outstanding rating.

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