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Quality of Social Work with Children and Families in Cheshire East has Improved says Ofsted

Cheshire East Council has responded to the publication of its latest Ofsted inspection report into services for children who need help or protection, which has been published today.

Ofsted carried out an inspection of local authority children’s services (ILACS) in Cheshire East on 3 and 4 November. The inspection focused on the council’s arrangements for children in need or those subject to a child protection plan.

Across Cheshire East there are around 2,100 children and young people who are supported by social workers to ensure they are safe in their families and in their communities. Working with other agencies, the council’s social care teams protect children and young people from the risks they face: including domestic violence, substance misuse and more complex safeguarding issues such as county lines.

In a letter to the council’s chief executive, Dr Lorraine O’Donnell, Ofsted summarised that since their last inspection in November 2019 the quality of social work with these children and their families has improved and senior leaders are successfully embedding a child-centred culture.

The letter goes on to say that children in Cheshire East benefit from stable and meaningful relationships with their social workers and they have frequent opportunities to express their wishes and feelings. Social workers also feel supported by managers and leaders, they have a comprehensive training plan, and enjoy working in Cheshire East. 

The council’s ‘@ct team’ who provide support for children at risk of exploitation or family breakdown were also praised for the positive impact they have on these children to ensure that they remain with their families when possible and when it is appropriate.

The letter also makes some recommendations for further improvements. It says that family networks are often explored to offer immediate support for children and families, but contingency plans could be better for longer term support. It goes on to say that most managers have frequent oversight of social work with children and their families, but this could be more regular for disabled children.

Finally, while a child-focused auditing programme is driving improvements and providing senior leaders with an accurate oversight of practice, recommendations following audits need to be completed to further improve the experiences for children and young people.

Councillor Kathryn Flavell, lead member for children and families at Cheshire East Council, said: “I am so proud of our staff across children’s services, who work tirelessly to achieve our ambition that all children and young people have the best start in life, are safe, happy, healthy and reach their potential.

“We are a learning organisation and welcome the challenge and scrutiny of our services.  We accept all the recommendations set out in Ofsted’s letter, which gives us a real focus to our ongoing improvement plans. I want to offer the reassurance that our leadership team are already working to address these areas of improvement.

“I am particularly pleased to see that, despite the pandemic, inspectors have recognised the improvements we have made in the quality of social work practice and that social workers enjoy working for Cheshire East Council. Inspectors have seen for themselves evidence of the creative and direct work that has been done with children and young people to focus on their wishes and feelings.

“We will continue to work hard to deliver excellence in social work and to ensure that children and young people live safely in their families and communities.”