A damning Ofsted report has slammed Havering Council's children's services, dropping its grade to 'inadequate'.

The local authority was given the regulator's lowest rating in a report published earlier this month, after inspections from December 11 to 22.

Services for children and families in Havering in need of help and protection have declined since 2018 when the service was last inspected, the report found.

"Weak practice is prevalent in longer-term work," it added.

Havering was previously deemed 'good' for its children's services by the government's inspection body. 

"The progress children make, their experiences and the quality of the services that they receive have significantly deteriorated," the report stated.

"Poor management oversight and supervision across social work teams, coupled with a weak reviewing service, have led to widespread drift and delay for too many children," it added.

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Romford Recorder: Oscar Ford, responding to the Ofsted rating, said the council was sorry some children and young people have had to wait too long for supportOscar Ford, responding to the Ofsted rating, said the council was sorry some children and young people have had to wait too long for support (Image: Havering Council)

Oscar Ford, cabinet member for children and young people, said the council accepted the report's findings and apologised for long wait times for children.

"We are sorry that some of our children and young people have had to wait too long for support," Cllr Ford said.

He argued that factors including Havering's "unprecedented" increase in child population, including a significant rise in children with special educational needs, led to this position.

Havering was judged "inadequate" in three out of four Ofsted categories, including the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families, and the experience and progress of children in care.

The experience and progress of care leavers was marginally better, deemed at "requires improvement to be good".

Ofsted acknowledged that most social workers in Havering have had complex and high caseloads.

But the body stated that combined weaknesses have led to a small number of children remaining at risk or experiencing harm for too long.

The report also found that disabled children in Havering receive an "inconsistent" service.

"Some families wait too long for an assessment before they receive a service, including those seeking to access short breaks," it stated.

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Ofsted also found that some disabled children's lives improve from the help they receive from council social workers, but others experience delays.

The regulator also took issue with the experience and progress of children in care.

"Too many children have a poor experience [in care]," the report said, after children were found to return to their parents' care without having risks assessed or mitigated.

"These plans are not always endorsed by senior managers," it added.

Older vulnerable children were also found to be insufficiently monitored.

"The safety and wellbeing of older highly vulnerable children in supported accommodation are not sufficiently monitored by social workers and their managers," the report read.

However, the council's family therapist team was found to make positive interventions to help improve carers' understanding of child needs.

Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children receive regular visits, the report found, with "positive" relationship-based work to build relationships with carers.

Other areas, including the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) and arrangements with the regional adoption agency, were praised by inspectors.

"The MASH is responsive and effective," the report read. "Experienced and professionally curious social workers collect and evaluate information quickly and competently.

"Risks to children are well understood and responded to appropriately," it added.

Cllr Ford said the safeguarding of children and young people remains a top priority for the council.

"We now have a robust improvement plan in place [...] to turn things around and get things right."

The council has outlined an improvement plan, which includes an £11 million increase in funding from 2018-23, a review of service structures to provide more staff capacity and the development of a training programme.