Cheshire East Council branded as having "dangerously complacent" attitude to child safeguarding

Knutsford Guardian: Cheshire East Council branded as having "dangerously complacent" attitude to child safeguarding.  Picture posed my models Cheshire East Council branded as having "dangerously complacent" attitude to child safeguarding. Picture posed my models

EXPERIENCED social workers are leaving Cheshire East Council and being replaced by agency workers, highlighting a "dangerously complacent" attitude in light of an Ofsted inspection earlier this year that revealed inadequate child safeguarding.

Inspectors were concerned about the number of agency workers temporarily employed by the Council, when they visited in March, and also the shortage of experienced social workers.

Cheshire East Council has recruited seven experienced social workers and three managers since the report was issued but experienced members of staff are leaving as fast as new ones are being employed, meaning more agency workers are needed to cover cases.

Labour councillors have said that agency workers should only be used as a vital back up but they cannot provide the same continuous level of care as a permanent, experienced member of staff.

They believe that the "disturbing" turnover of staff is affecting the children the Council is trying to safeguard, as a lack of continuity results in a lack of stability.

Clr Ken Edwards, Labour councillor for Macclesfield Central, said: “To provide a high standard of child protection and care Cheshire East requires a team of permanent skilled and experienced people.

"We need to work towards that aim.

"Agency workers form a vital back up but inevitably cannot provide the same level of continuous care and continuity of service provided by permanent staff.”

Clr Sam Corcoran, Labour councillor for Sandbach Heath and East, said: "I am sure I speak for all councillors in saying that child safeguarding is the last area that we would want the council to be found wanting.

"Since the disturbing Ofsted inadequate finding in March, progress has been made on the initial assessment of cases, but the underlying problem of a shortage of permanent, experienced social workers is getting worse.

"The leader of the council recently said that child safeguarding is not inadequate.

"That sounds dangerously complacent given the recent OFSTED findings and I sincerely hope that he will not regret those words.”

A spokesperson for Cheshire East Council said that, although the shortage of social workers is a ‘generally-accepted national problem’, the council are working to ensure that their approach is robust and meets the needs of the council.

The spokesperson added: “A range of initiatives are being deployed to attract high-quality social workers including additional recruitment and retention payments and improved supervision.

“We believe that the quality of social workers in Cheshire East has improved significantly in recent months, for example many of the experienced agency staff we employ have been with us for five months or more, which is adding stability to our workforce.”

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