Barnet Council’s services for children in care have continued to improve despite the "significant" challenges presented by the pandemic, according to Ofsted.

An inspector from the government watchdog praised the "well co-ordinated and effective response to the Covid-19 pandemic" and said leaders had "continued to prioritise children’s services, underpinned by strong corporate and political support". 

She added that the "vast majority of children in care benefit from living in placement arrangements which meet their individual needs".

In 2017, the council’s children’s services department was rated "inadequate" by the watchdog, but a rapid turnaround led to it achieving a 'good' rating two years later.

In a letter published on August 2 following a visit at the end of June, Ofsted Inspector Tara Geere highlighted several positive findings and areas where there is still room for improvement.

Ms Geere wrote: "Despite the significant challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, the committed and stable senior leadership team has continued to improve services to children in care in Barnet.

"Leaders have an accurate understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of their services. They have identified areas for improvement and have appropriate plans in place to address these issues."

The letter states that systems and processes to monitor placements have been strengthened, and an increasing number of children are benefitting from being placed in matched, long-term arrangements.

It also reveals Barnet has seen a "significant rise in the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children".

Ms Geere wrote: "These children benefit from effective, timely work to ensure that their needs are assessed and responded to. Their educational, emotional and physical health needs are well considered, and translators are used to support children’s engagement if necessary."

Areas for improvement highlighted in the letter include the recording of supervision, visits and direct work with children, and the rationale for decision-making on placements.

Ms Geere added: "Case recording does not always do justice to the child-centred and creative work that is being undertaken by social workers, particularly in relation to the recording of visits and the direct work undertaken with children."

Further improvements are needed to planning for children in care, the letter states.

David Longstaff, chairman of the children, education and safeguarding committee, said supporting vulnerable children and young people in care during the pandemic had been a council priority.

He said: "The major advances made to ensure their ongoing good health and wellbeing have been reflected in Ofsted’s welcome report.

"The children’s services team has worked tirelessly for these young people, listening to them to understand their needs, and improving the quality and coordination of the support services."

Chris Munday, executive director of children and young people, added: "The report is extremely positive about the skill and dedication of our social workers and other children’s workers to improving the life chances of children and young people in care. 

"We have a superb team in place to continue to progress and take on Ofsted’s recommendations for areas of further improvement."