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Council commits to continuing to improve children’s services following Ofsted inspection

Cheshire East Council has responded to the publication today of the latest Ofsted inspection of children’s services in the borough.

The council’s inspection of local authority children’s services took place from 26 February to 8 March 2024. In summary, the inspectors looked at the experiences of children and young people, and what impact council services have made for them. 

Inspectors reviewed four areas:

  1. The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families; 
  2. The experiences and progress of children who need help and protection;
  3. The experiences and progress of children in care; and 
  4. The experiences and progress of care leavers. 

In a letter to the council’s director of children’s services, Ofsted rated the experiences and progress of care leavers as inadequate, stating that ‘the quality, consistency and responsiveness of support, advice and guidance for care leavers’, needs to improve. The care leavers this inspection focused on are those young adults aged 18-25, who continue to be supported by the council having left local authority care.

The inspectors rated the other three areas of inspection as requiring improvement to be good, providing further detail on specific areas for improvement and areas of strength.

If any areas of inspection are deemed inadequate then the rating of overall effectiveness by default is also judged to be inadequate, irrespective of ratings in other areas.

The judgement recognised many strengths across the council, including: 

  • There is strong political and corporate commitment to children in Cheshire East and a strategic focus on improvement;
  • Significant progress has been made in improving arrangements for those who go missing or are at risk of exploitation;
  • Senior leaders express a tangible ambition to do the right thing to help, protect and care for the most vulnerable children in Cheshire East;
  • Staff knew children and young people well and spoke about them with warmth;
  • The development and opening of family hubs have strengthened the early help offer, reducing harm for children and young people;
  • Children and young people are supported to remain with their families when it is safe for them to do so; and 
  • Staff said they enjoyed working for Cheshire East and felt well supported by managers. 

Areas for improvement include:

  • Ensuring consistently good outcomes are achieved for children and young people through child-focused plans, scrutiny of performance and oversight of practice; 
  • The support, advice and guidance for care leavers, including those who are homeless, with additional vulnerabilities, and those who are over 21 years of age;
  • Ensuring social work visits are in line with children’s needs and improved recording;  
  • Achieving long-term plans for how children will be cared for without delay; and 
  • Stabilising the workforce so children benefit from consistent relationships. 

Councillor Carol Bulman, lead member for children and families at Cheshire East Council, said:

“We are, of course, deeply disappointed with the outcome of this latest inspection and are sorry that some aspects of our support for young people does not meet the expected standard. However, we accept the findings and are committed to addressing all the inspectors’ recommendations. 

“I’d like to thank all the staff who support children, young people and their families, day in day out, with dedication, commitment and care. I am proud of how they have responded to the judgement and have committed to deliver the improvements set out in the report. 

“Work is already under way to improve the experiences of our children and young people, learning from this inspection and building on the progress we have made over the last few years. I know this inspection will be a positive catalyst for change and we need to use it as an opportunity to reflect, learn and keep moving forwards.   

“Our focus continues to be on achieving excellent outcomes for children and young people through establishing consistently good practice.” 

The Ofsted report can be found here. 

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