Kingston Council's child services have been given a clean bill of health by regulator Ofsted for the first time in three years.

The service was twice deemed inadequate, in June 2012 and July 2013, following a series of safeguarding failures and the murder of Charito Cruz by her boyfriend.

Inspectors visited social workers in May and June this year and, in a report published today, rated the service as 'good'.

Council leader Kevin Davis praised "swift action, hard work and great professionalism" by workers. Child services in Kingston and Richmond are now run by Achieving for Children (AfC), a social enterprise company.

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Ofsted's report said: "Almost all areas identified for improvement in the previous inspections have been addressed in full.

"The integrated arrangement between the two local authorities is proving to be an effective one for Kingston.

"Children and their families in Kingston now receive coordinated, effective and timely early support from a wide range of universal and targeted services.

"If their needs or risks escalate, prompt referrals are made to children’s services, which are progressed efficiently for statutory assessment.

"The large majority of children receive a good service from diligent and skilled social workers who take account of their views.

"Plans meet needs and reduce risk, and the regular review of progress ensures delays are usually avoided. For those children in need of protection, including those who become looked after, swift and robust action is taken to reduce risk."

Inspectors said AfC chief executive Nick Whitfield showed a "determined and innovative approach" and praised other, "highly skilled" managers.

Mr Whitfield said: "We have been incredibly well supported through our partnerships with schools, all those in health, the police and other agencies that work our children and young people."

Mr Whitfield, who earns £148,263 in his current role, will soon take on extra responsibility as child services commissioner in Sunderland. He will work in the part-time role at the same time as his existing job.

AfC, which has been forced to cut £7.5m from its budget in its first three years, has also been appointed as an intervention advisor by the Department for Education, and is currently working with Doncaster and Slough councils.

Areas that Ofsted said still needed to be improved in Kingston included:

  • The sharing of reports before child protection conferences
  • Timely intervention and support for children who are privately fostered
  • Routine multi-agency attendance at strategy discussions
  • The quality and analysis of return home interviews for children who have been missing from home or care
  • Take-up of advocacy and independent visitor services
  • Permanence planning, including the use of parallel planning
  • Oversight within the children with disabilities team and of emergency placements
  • Reducing delay in the assessment of prospective adopters

Inspectors also urged service managers to increase the range of employment for over-16s and training options, including apprenticeships, for young people leaving care.

They found that information given out, though useful, was not area-specific and that young people were not always aware of how they could give their views on ways to develop the service.

Former lead member for children and young people, Coun Andrea Craig, said: "I want to pay huge tribute to all the staff at AfC without whom this transformation would not have been possible."

Staff will now push for an 'outstanding' rating, she said.

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