Wandsworth 'Too Slow' in Placing Children for Adoption

Inspectors find improvement still needed in children’s services in the borough


OFSTED has released details of their findings from the latest monitoring visit to Wandsworth children’s services which were rated as inadequate in 2015. It is the fifth time they have visited since assessing the borough’s services as needing improvement.

The visit was undertaken in September by two inspectors Brenda McLaughlin and Marcie Taylor focusing on adoption provision. Although they acknowledged some strengths in the service they concluded that the Council was too slow in finding placements for children who are unable to live with their birth families.

Although the number of adoptions is increasing the inspectors said that it was too low partly because of ‘an underdeveloped understanding and application of early permanence through foster to adopt arrangements and a lack of consistent consideration of parallel plans for all children’.

They also say that insufficient reliable data and performance information are affecting the ability of the borough’s managers to make improvements.

An externally commissioned review in May 2017 found that young children waited too long to be placed. For example, a fifth of infants (aged 0–3 months when they became looked after) waited an average of 28 months before being placed with their adoptive families. Four adoptive
households, which had been approved in 2014–15, were still waiting to be matched with a child at the time of the review. The inspectors found that in the children looked after service, management grip on the quality of practice is not sufficiently rigorous.

They accept that a recently established monthly forum has resulted in more robust management oversight at each stage of the adoption process and that any drift in progressing plans is now being appropriately escalated to the assistant director of children’s services.

There was praise for the quality of prospective adopter reports (PARs) which were said to demonstrate considered analysis of the strengths and vulnerabilities of prospective adopters.

It was also acknowledged that the quality of social work practice with children in care is continuing to improve, particularly when social workers are permanent or have been allocated to the case for a significant time. However, some children are unable to develop trusting relationships with their social worker
due to staff turnover.

The work of the fostering service in recruiting and retaining carers was praised during the last monitoring visit in May 2017 and continues to be seen as a strength. There are currently 68 households offering 95 places in the borough.

The inspectors included that progress seen on previous monitoring visits is not yet fully reflected in achieving permanence soon enough for some vulnerable children. They said that senior leaders and staff were ‘working diligently’ to address the problems and that they conveyed ‘considerable ambition, confidence and determination to consistently improve the quality of help care and protection that they provide to children looked after’.

We have asked Wandsworth Council for a comment.

October 25, 2017