Lambeth launches ‘Children at the heart of practice’ model following ‘inadequate’ Ofsted rating

Following an ‘inadequate’ Ofsted rating last year, Lambeth has developed a new programme to tackle their problematic children’s services.

Lambeth’s new approach, ‘Children at the heart of practice’, will be launching at an event in Southbank on Thursday, October 12.

Approximately 61,900 under 18s live in Lambeth – which accounts for 19.7% of the borough’s population.

Of these young people, 31% are living in poverty, requiring help and intervention from authorities like Lambeth’s Children.

Last year’s investigation into child social care in Lambeth reported: “There are widespread or serious failures in the delivery of services which result in the children’s welfare not being safeguarded and promoted.”

The previous Ofsted report in 2012 judged the same services to be ‘outstanding’, leaving much to be answered for in response to the rapid decline of adequate care.

Mark Stancer, director of children’s care in Lambeth, leading the programme, said: “We have drawn in excellent and credible leadership.

“I am fortunate to be able to draw on the experience of Annie Hudson, the ex-chief executive of The College of Social Work and now Lambeth’s strategic director, and Andrew Christie, the former DCS of the Tri-borough who, in May 2016, was appointed as Lambeth’s LSCB chair.

“Together they ensure we remain realistic and pursue our strategy with pace.”

The new programme is focused on working with entire families, rather than children as individuals, evaluating not only their home situation but also their family relationships and lives at school.

Ultimately the programme aims to keep families together wherever possible, and will look to work on improving individual situations the children are in rather than simply uprooting them.

Therefore, Lambeth is encouraging and training their social workers to think creatively and work outside the box to transform lives through working with families as a whole, schools and other agencies to benefit the children.

The social work teams have been divided into smaller teams of six social workers with one team manager in order to enable regular group supervision, manageable caseloads and hands-on support and guidance.

“While our vision is clear and we have made significant progress, we know that there is still a long way to go. Our improvement journey will continue to be hard work, challenging and sometimes frustrating,” said a Lambeth council spokesperson.

“Our framework is designed to be flexible so that it can work in a place as diverse as Lambeth where every family is different and what might be right for one family or child may not be right for another.

“While we are clear about our framework and are confident the building blocks are in place, we know that we are not there yet. We believe our journey of improvement will take us two to three years to properly establish.”

Lambeth has adopted Systemic Theory and methodologies as their overarching approach, which centres primarily around identifying patterns within family units and maintaining equilibrium.

Lambeth’s Children’s Services will present this approach on Thursday as part of their programme, which they believe tackles complex problems while maintaining core values around children being cared for by their family wherever possible.

Mr Stancer said: “Our response in Lambeth hasn’t been to paper over the cracks and try to respond to each of Ofsted’s recommendations line by line.

“We have stepped back, stopped, and really thought about the root causes of our service failure.”

You can sign up for your free place at the talk, which will be held at the Southbank Centre at 6pm on Thursday, October 12, here.

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