Childen's services at Cheshire East rated inadequate

Ofsted undertook an inspection of local authority children's services in Cheshire East between 26 February 2024 and 8 March 2024.

The inspection report, which has been published today (16th May 2024) has judged the overall effectiveness of Cheshire East Council's children's services as inadequate.

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.

Since the last inspection in 2019, when Cheshire East Council's children's services were rated as 'requires improvement to be good', Ofsted inspectors have recognised that improvements have been made in some areas of practice.

However, they concluded "the quality of practice and the experience and progress of children and young people are too variable, and for care leavers they are inadequate".

The report continues "Following the Joint Targeted Area Inspection (JTAI) in July 2022, when areas for priority action were identified for children at risk of child exploitation, practice shortfalls have been addressed effectively. The development and opening of family hubs have strengthened the early help offer, enabling more families to access timely and appropriate support.

"Nevertheless, there is much more to do to improve the quality of practice to ensure a consistent response to the most vulnerable children and care leavers in Cheshire East. There have not been sufficient improvements made in relation to services for those children who are subject to child in need and child protection plans. Furthermore, management oversight and challenge are not fully embedded across all service areas. Senior leaders had not recognised, until this inspection, the extent of improvement required in services for care leavers."

Ofsted identified that the following areas need to improve:

  • Senior leaders' oversight of performance to ensure that there is a coherent approach to continuous improvement.
  • The quality, consistency and responsiveness of support, advice and guidance for care leavers, including those who are homeless, with additional vulnerabilities, and those who are over 21 years of age.
  • The quality of management oversight and supervision to ensure that consistent, good social work practice is in place.
  • The quality of plans for children to ensure that they are more child-focused and drive forward positive change in a timely way.
  • The quality and frequency of visits to children so that the visits are purposeful and in line with assessed needs.
  • The sufficiency of suitable placements that can meet children and young people's assessed needs.
  • The effectiveness of child protection chairs and independent reviewing officers (IROs) to escalate, challenge and scrutinise plans for children.

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."

Click here to read the full report is here.



Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Kelvin Briggs
Thursday 16th May 2024 at 2:24 pm
In Industry inadequate performance and poor leadership generally means you lose your job.What are the implications for Council leaders?Will they just carry on and blame lack of funding?
Alan Brough
Thursday 16th May 2024 at 7:44 pm
This finding is truly shocking.

We’re forced to accept that CE Council are incapable of looking after things like Highways and Public Transport and Planning and Recycling and Adult Social Care, but now to learn that our children aren’t safe is a new low.

That the Councillor responsible has waited for the findings before announcing that she’s “deeply disappointed” is particularly telling.

I suppose that, as a democracy, we should hang our heads in shame at the rot that we have inflicted upon ourselves.
Jon Williams
Friday 17th May 2024 at 1:40 pm
Not fit for purpose:

Not fit for purpose is an expression that means not adapted to a purpose or unsuitable. It is often used to describe goods or services that are defective or do not meet the expectations of the buyer. The expression became popular in British English after the British Home Secretary used it to criticize his own department in 2006

Add Your Comment

Share what you think of this story. In order to post a comment click here to sign in or register to become a member (it's free and will only take one minute).