Council expects 'progress' in next Ofsted inspection of Luton children's services

Luton Borough Council says it expects "progress" in an upcoming Ofsted inspection of children's services - after previously being rated "inadequate".

Monday, 7th June 2021, 4:30 pm
The council says it expects to have made progress in the next Ofsted report of children's services

"Progress will be shown in all five key areas" when Ofsted reinspects the department, a meeting heard.

But the council's director of education, Paul Senior, stopped short of predicting any improvement in the overall score.

The council's children's services were rated inadequate overall following a ten day inspection in January 2020.

Ofsted's return visit is expected imminently, Mr Senior told a health and wellbeing board meeting.

"We were asked to produce a written statement of action," he said. "We're anticipating the reinspection sooner rather than later.

"It's a local area review. It's not just about the local authority. It's all partners across education, health and (social) care. SEND is everyone's business.

"The pandemic has had an impact on the delivery of services in these areas, but inspectors won't be allowing that to be an excuse.

"The inspectors will be keen to meet parents and carers, as well as children and young people and their families," he said. "So it won't be a case of just meeting with the professionals.

"It's a case of ensuring our SEND system all comes together to maximise life choices for our children and young people.

"We now receive two weeks' notice. The inspection team will arrive for a four- to five-day process.

"It's important partners, stakeholders and officers talk about impact, what's changed and what improvements there have been since the last inspection.

"Have some areas allowed Covid to be an excuse for not delivering services effectively?

"Inspectors will be very unforgiving if there's a use of excuses why children and young people haven't had services," he warned.

The areas requiring improvement highlighted by Ofsted were:

> Services are not sharing information and a lack of clarity about roles and shared responsibilities;

> No coordinated approach by health to meet urgent needs, while children aren't having their needs identified, assessed or met because of long waiting lists;

> Production is weak and joint commissioning isn't good enough, with leaders not having a good understanding of needs;

> Leaders not working together to ensure education, health and care plans (EHCPs) provide meaningful multi-agency approaches to meeting the academic, social, health and care needs of children;

> Leaders slow to address the inadequacies of the local offer and the unique issues they face as a local area to the needs of the transient community and English as an additional language.

The council's director of children, families and education, Amanda Lewis, said the "disproportionate impact of Covid" has affected waiting times for local children and young people, as well as engagement with parents and carers.

Labour Saints councillor Javed Hussain asked: "If you're a mock examiner, where are we today?"

Mr Senior replied: "I'm comfortable and confident that progress will be shown in all five areas. I can't say what the outcome of the inspection process will be."