'Outstanding' Rating for Local Children's Services

Upgrade from Ofsted after positive report by inspectors

Cllr Sanderson (second from right) stands with members of H&F's Children's Services
Cllr Sanderson (second from right) stands with members of H&F's Children's Services

May 20, 2024

Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s children’s services have been bumped up to ‘outstanding’ in a new Ofsted report.

Inspectors praised Hammersmith and Fulham Council for improvements made since the watchdog’s last review in 2019, at which point the service was graded ‘good’.

These include investing in an additional social work team, stronger safeguarding and healthcare arrangements, and delivering a ‘supportive environment’ for social workers.

Cllr Alex Sanderson, Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Education, said the report confirms the local authority is improving and changing the lives of its youngest residents.

Local authorities across the country are responsible for ensuring services for children are delivered effectively.

At the time of its last inspection, Hammersmith and Fulham Council had not long redesigned some of its social care services for children, having largely disaggregated itself from a joint arrangement with Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster in 2018.

Ofsted’s report praised the council for the experience of children and their families in the borough and its partnerships with agencies, though warned issues remained including high caseloads and the quality of planning for children in need.

The latest visit, which took place between March 11 and 15 this year, found improvements had been made across the majority of areas reviewed.

The support provided to children in care in the borough was among the items praised, with inspectors writing social workers get to know the children ‘really well’ and that most live in stable homes, ‘increasing their security’.

This extended to groups such as unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, whose needs are ‘well understood’ and ‘prioritised’.

The report also comments on the fostering service delivered in Hammersmith and Fulham. It details how many foster carers have stayed with the local authority for years, and “are highly skilled and provide excellent care to meet children’s diverse needs”.

The support for care leavers meanwhile is described as ‘impressive’, with the senior management team also praised for its ‘outstanding impact on practice’.

“Strong political leadership and support are reflected in an ambitious manifesto and a passion for investing in children,” inspectors wrote. “The strategic director is described by the chief executive officer as open and transparent about need, and as challenging regularly to ensure that resources are forthcoming for children.

“The cabinet member for children and education and senior leaders across the council have established clear priorities, to invest in what is needed and to raise the voices of children and young people.”

The report does note two areas of improvement for the council, “The consistency of multi-agency participation in initial child protection strategy discussions”, and developing the pace of work from the child protection strategy discussion to the initial child protection conference.

Commenting on the report, Cllr Sanderson said, “Hammersmith and Fulham is a borough for everyone and at our heart is a mission to improve and change the lives of our youngest residents. Giving them the very best start in life so that they can thrive, enjoy life and help us build a better future. Ofsted has confirmed that we are doing just that.”

Ben Lynch - Local Democracy Reporter