Ofsted monitoring visit finds Children’s Service progress ‘extremely encouraging’
Third positive report in a row as council targets ‘good’ rating
The latest monitoring visit by Ofsted has endorsed the steps Tower Hamlets continues to take to significantly improve its services for children, families and young people.
Inspectors published their latest report today following their most recent visit in early May to review council’s arrangements for the help and protection of vulnerable adolescents. This included looking at council measures around children at risk of exploitation, young people missing from home or care and those involved in gang activity.
Some of the key findings include:
- ‘substantial improvements to the quality of multi-agency and social work practice for vulnerable adolescents and their families.’
- Improvements to identifying and tackling exploitation including ‘multi-agency interventions and engagement with young people that is having a positive impact.’
- ‘strong partnership work to counter the risk to children from radicalisation’
- ‘a much improved quality service to vulnerable adolescents by the reconfigured child-focused out-of-hours emergency duty team
- success in recruiting permanently to senior and middle manager posts, although recruitment and retention of staff is ‘a priority and challenge.’
The letter concludes with the following quote from Her Majesty’s Inspector Brenda McLaughlin.
“This is extremely encouraging given the particularly complex challenges involved in this work. Political leaders and managers are demonstrating considerable determination and commitment to embedding and sustaining these changes, while simultaneously addressing poor practice.”
The council has set the target of achieving a ‘good’ rating by 2019 and is improving all aspects of the service through an Improvement Plan agreed by the Department for Education in June 2017.
The Plan is implemented, monitored and updated on a monthly basis and is overseen by an independently chaired Improvement Board.
Every quarter, Ofsted visits to inspect progress in different areas of the service after Children’s Service was rated inadequate in June 2017. Since then, Ofsted has published the findings of two quarterly visits which have demonstrated the council is making good progress in delivering the Improvement Plan.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets said:
‘’The council is improving its children’s services at a rapid rate. The fact that we have had three positive visits since our Improvement Plan was agreed with the Department for Education last year shows we are on the right track. But I don’t take that for granted and we remain unremittingly focused on keeping that way.’’
“This visit focused on particularly challenging areas around vulnerable young people. Our service has to be in good shape to identify these issues before they become problems for our young people and wider society.
“Our social workers and all staff working on the improvements are doing great work to tackle historic problems with the service, and deliver modern ways of delivering services with our partners. There is still much work to do to make a lasting change in Tower Hamlets but this is good news, and I am proud of our staff, and those who have supported us.”
Councillor Danny Hassell, Cabinet member for Children, Schools and Young People said:
“Since the last Ofsted inspection, we have continued our concerted efforts to deliver our ambitious improvement plan and put children and young people at the heart of all that we do, across the work of the council and our partners..
“Of course there is more to do and we are not complacent about the future challenges, but we are going in the right direction.
“I would like to extend my thanks to all our staff working with children and families in the borough for their ongoing commitment and care. We are focusing on recruiting more permanent staff and will be introducing further incentives to recruit and develop highly skilled social workers.”
Tower Hamlets welcomes extra measures to tackle rogue landlords
Tower Hamlets council’s proactive policies to safeguard private renters and tackle rogue landlords have been further strengthened as it becomes one of the first London boroughs to contribute to the Mayor of London’s rogue landlord checker.
The new checker is a London-wide database which will eventually include details of successful prosecutions and fines against landlords or letting agents convicted of housing offences.
Tower Hamlets Council enforcement action against Foxtons Estate Agents is currently the highest value fine against an agent on the checker. The agents were fined a record £35,000 following a prosecution brought by the council after it failed to provide the correct documentation, including gas and fire safety, for a rental property in Whitechapel.
More recently, they were also required to pay the council’s legal cost of £820 following an unsuccessful challenge against the original prosecution.
Enforcement action has impact far beyond simple punishment: as a result of this action, Foxtons are changing their procedures and practices across London, including in relation to fees, licensing, and compliance with notices.
Raising the quality of private rented housing has already been top priority for the Mayor of Tower Hamlets and the council. In June 2017, the council received widespread support from renters and landlord organisations, as well as consumer bodies for its Tower Hamlets Renters’ Charter.
The Renters’ Charter was officially launched by the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, and Statutory Deputy Mayor Cllr Sirajul Islam, who is Tower Hamlets Cabinet Member for Housing.
The Charter is available on the council website www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/
It includes practical information on the standards renters can legally expect from their landlords and agents, and the steps that the council and partner agencies will take where those standards are not met. Every private renter has the right to live in a safe and secure home and to be treated fairly, and the council will always consider enforcement action where landlords and agents do not respect those rights.
Another successful council prosecution listed on the Checker was against two landlords and a company director who left their tenants at risk of fire, failed to repair serious leaks, and operated without a landlord licence. They were ordered to pay more than £13,300 after pleading guilty to a total of 11 offences under the Housing Act 2004 at Thames Magistrates Court on March 8 2018.
Both landlords received significant income from tenants at Clifton House on the famous Grade II listed Boundary Estate. Neither had applied for a landlord licence despite being requested to do so by the council.
The Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said:
“Improving the quality of the private rented sector is a key part of my housing strategy. I’m pleased that our borough already has strong safeguards and procedures to protect private renters and take firm action against those landlords who flout the law. We are committed to empowering renters and between our Renters’ Charter and the Mayor of London’s rogue landlord checker, dodgy landlords should get the message that we will not tolerate their bad behaviour.”
Statutory Deputy Mayor Cllr Sirajul Islam who is also Tower Hamlets Cabinet Member for Housing said:
“For the first time in generations there are more private renters in the borough than social housing tenants. We also have one of the fastest growing populations in the country, so this will place further pressure on private housing stock. These added pressures can never be an excuse for landlords or agents to cut corners or fail to provide good quality housing that meets their legal requirements. Our strong record shows that we will always seek to enforce against those landlords happy to charge high rents without taking their responsibilities seriously.”
The council has just completed consultation on plans to create an additional licensing scheme covering Housing in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) across the borough, and will announce its plans later in the year.
Freedom of the Borough awarded to dedicated volunteer
- Commander John Ludgate – Freedom of the Borough Commander John Ludgate – Freedom of the Borough
- Commander John Ludgate shaking Will Tuckley’s hand – Freedom of the Borough Commander John Ludgate shaking Will Tuckley’s hand – Freedom of the Borough
- Commander John Ludgate – Freedom of the Borough Commander John Ludgate – Freedom of the Borough
The prestigious Freedom of the Borough was awarded to Commander John Ludgate at the Council’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) last night (23 May 2018).
Serving as the county’s Deputy Lieutenant for 22 years, he has escorted the royal family during their visits to the borough.
Commander Ludgate is also Vice Chairman of the Cadet Committee at the Greater London Reserve Forces and Cadets Association, and Vice President of the Marine Society and Sea Cadets Association. He said that youth organisations are extremely important as “youth is the country’s future – all our futures”.
“I did not expect this,” Commander Ludgate said. “It is a great honour. I’m not sure if there are any special rules with this title, such as herding sheep down the street, but maybe a rickshaw down Brick Lane.
“I think Tower Hamlets is an inspirational borough reflecting all that is best in a modern, urban, aspirational community.
“Tower Hamlets has her Majesty’s palace and fortress, the Tower of London, and if you enjoy your food, just around the corner, Brick Lane. There is the high rises and financial centre of Canary Wharf and if you go a little further, you have Island Gardens looking across to Greenwich – it also has Canaletto’s famous painting for you to see.”
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “I would like to congratulate John Ludgate on being awarded the Freedom of the Borough.
“Serving as a volunteer for more than 20 years in Tower Hamlets shows a tremendous amount of dedication, I have known him throughout this time and was delighted to see him honoured at our AGM.”
Commander Ludgate served as an Officer in the Royal Navy and Royal Navy Reserve from 1959 until 1995. In the latter years of his military service, he was appointed the HMS President of the Royal Navy Reserve based in Wapping.
Alongside this role, Commander Ludgate also pursued a career as a Chartered Accountant at Barclays Bank. He retired in 1996 and has since dedicated his time and efforts to Tower Hamlets.
He was a member of the mayoral (Cllr Abdul Aziz Sardar) visit to Bangladesh in 2004.
He was nominated by Cllr Denise Jones: “He stood by my side to welcome the Queen, never failing to give me advice on how to address or curtsey to royalty. He was also very supportive of the Outdoor Activity Centre at Shadwell Basin and of fundraising for the preservation of the national historic steamship SS Robin.
“He was a strong advocate for encouraging young people in the borough to engage with the navy and ships, and with the Territorial Army.”
Commander Ludgate was also nominated for encouraging young people to get involved in politics and youth organisations.
Cllr Sabina Akhtar said: “He supported the Cadets from the Tower Hamlets 31 Squadron which was named the best Air Cadet Squadron in the country. I have observed John while being a young person eager to learn more about politics and John remained invested in his duties and held his position to the highest standard.”
Lesley Pavitt said: “He was very keen that youngsters in the borough were able to have opportunities and was a great supporter of the various Cadet Corps – and encouraged me to be involved.”
History of the Freedom of the Borough
He joins six other outstanding local people who have been awarded the Freedom of the Borough since 1948. This includes:
- Clement Richard Attlee, the first Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
- Henry Edward Tate OBE JP, the founder of the Tate Gallery.
- Charles William Key JP, a politician who dedicate his life to repealing the Poor Law.
- Nellie Frances Cressall, an East End Suffragette.
- Muriel Lester, one of the world’s leading pacifists and two-time Nobel Prize nominee.
- Abdul Gaffar Choudhury, who was involved in the Bengali Language Movement