CHILDREN’S social care services provided by Cheshire East Council need to be improved to be rated as ‘good’.

So say Ofsted inspectors following an inspection of the services between November 18 and 29.

The inspection report said the council had made significant progress in some service areas since the Single Inspection Framework inspection in 2015 and a focused visit in October 2018.

“However, improvement is needed in other services to ensure children receive a consistently good service,” said the report.

“While initial concerns are dealt with effectively and families receive a service at the right level of intervention, the subsequent interventions are not consistently good.”

The report said arrangements in the ‘integrated front door’ had been strengthened, ensuring referrals about children for who there were safeguarding concerns were almost always dealt with quickly and appropriately.

It added: “The scale and effectiveness of the early help services has improved, enabling more children and families to access timely and appropriate support.

“An ‘edge of care’ team works intensively with families to ensure children only come into care when they need to, and that children at risk of exploitation receive a robust service.”

The report, added, however, that some vulnerable children’s situations were not improving quickly enough.

It said: “Management oversight and challenge are not fully embedded in all service areas, and the quality of social work practice is too inconsistent.

“There are avoidable delays in determining and implementing plans for some children, and not all vulnerabilities are fully recognised and addressed.

“Some children wait too long to enter care and experience a sense of permanence.

“Children experiencing chronic long-term neglect, children who are privately fostered, and homeless 16 and 17-year-olds are not always receiving appropriate help.

“Care leavers needing emergency accommodation are not always placed in accommodation where they feel safe and have their needs met.

“Senior leaders and managers were not fully aware of some of these shortfalls until the inspection. Efforts to improve foster carer recruitment have not had sufficient impact and some foster carers feel poorly supported.”

Mark Palethorpe, acting executive director for people, said: “I am proud of the progress we have made in our services for children over the last few years.

“But, as the Ofsted inspectors have identified, we must continue to make further improvements to achieve the rating of ‘good’.

“We have launched a new social work practice model that has had substantial impact on social care practice and assessment.

“In the long term we are confident and committed to ensuring that this new approach supports improvements to consistency and quality, both in terms of practice, assessment and oversight.

“Foster carers play an essential job in the life of some children and young people. We value our foster carers highly, and must work harder to make sure they feel supported and that we recruit more foster carers into this very special role.

“Senior managers at the council are fully committed to building on our areas of good practice and bringing consistency across all service areas – further improving the effectiveness of their oversight and management in guiding work at the front line.

“I would like recognise the continued commitment, professionalism and engagement of frontline staff and managers.”