Council criticised after government says protection for children is ‘weak’ (From Knutsford Guardian)
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Council criticised after government says protection for children is ‘weak’
CHESHIRE East Council is on a list of authorities where child protection is ‘manifestly and palpably weak’, according to the Government’s chief schools inspector.
The council is among 20 across England which head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has branded ‘inadequate’ and ‘unacceptably poor’.
“This worrying situation will only change if leadership at every level, including political leadership, can demonstrate a renewed commitment to focus on what really matters: the quality of frontline work of care professionals with families and communities,” said Sir Michael in his annual report.
Common failures in councils with inadequate child protection include ‘leadership with little or no sense of what is happening on the frontline’ and a ‘culture of low expectations’, he adds.
Cheshire East Council said it had taken positive steps to address the inadequacies, raised by Ofsted five months ago.
An authority spokesperson said: “There has been significant activity since April to improve the way Cheshire East works across children’s services to improve outcomes for children, young people and their families.” The council altered its recruitment strategy to ‘attract and retain the best social workers’, which has resulted in experienced managers and front line staff, said the spokesman.
The main risk identified was ‘front door’ access into children’s social care, which Cheshire East said they had begun taking steps to improve before inspectors visited.
Their plans have resulted in a new service, Cheshire East Consultation Service (ChECS), which went live in April.
The council said an independent Improvement Board, set up with the Department for Education, has confirmed completion of elements from the inspector’s report, and meets monthly to monitor progress.
A new chairman of the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB) has been appointed, and a new case management system will be implemented in the ‘next few weeks’.
Tony Crane, Cheshire East Council’s director of children’s services, said improvement ‘has been gaining momentum’ since the inspector’s visit.
He said: “While the recruitment and retention of high quality social workers is a national issue, we are seeing progress in ensuring all our social workers and partners agency staff are fully equipped to meet the need for protecting children in all the complex forms that this takes.
“While we do not underestimate that this is an ongoing task and there is still much to be done for us to get to great and outstanding, I am confident if Ofsted visited Cheshire East now and undertook the same inspection we would pass.”
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