Cheshire West and Chester Council is one of the top performing local authorities in the country when it comes to its Children and Families Service.
Ofsted rated it ‘good’ with ‘outstanding’ features following an unannounced and rigorous inspection into how well it cares for its most vulnerable children and young people over a four-week period late last year.
A team of 11 inspectors – who examined more than 200 cases and interviewed a range of young service users – concluded that Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) is ‘oustanding’ for leadership, management and governance, as well as adoption performance.
And it was deemed ‘good’ for children who need help and protection, for care looked after children and for the experiences of children leaving care.
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The result means that CWaC is one of only three councils in the North West which have been judged ‘good’ overall.
Hard work and dedication
Cabinet member for children and families Cllr Nicole Meardon has welcomed the news, which she says is a testimony to the ‘hard work and dedication of staff who have worked tirelessly over the last five years to improve standards while keeping children and families at the hear of everything we do.”
CWaC’s last inspection was in 2012, when its ‘adequate’ rating was reinstated after safeguarding concerns led to the downgrading of the whole service to ‘inadequate’ in 2010.
Following the 2012 reinspection, Ofsted commented that it was one of the quickest turnarounds in child protection performance it had known.
Listening to young people
Director of CWaC’s Children and Young People’s Service Gerald Meehan said: “What is pleasing is that Ofsted has recognised the enormous amount of work which has gone on over the past five years.”
Mr Meehan explained that the 2010 judgment presented them with an opportunity to hold a mirror up to their services and re-evaluate.
Shifting the focus to outcomes rather than processes and working ‘really hard’ on listening to the young people they serve have been fundamental in CWaC’s progress, Mr Meehan says.
Cllr Margaret Parker, opposition spokesperson for children and families, said Ofsted’s findings recognise the strength of the council’s partnerships with the police, health, voluntary and faith sectors and the Children in Care Council.
Best start in life
“These results demonstrate that all our staff - from front-line workers to senior managers - consistently work to high standards to ensure that our children get the best start in life,” Cllr Parker added.
“All staff who work with children and families have shown enormous dedication during a lengthy and demanding journey of improvement, and they can be rightly proud of this fantastic achievement.”
But Cllr Meardon stressed that the authority is not complacent and will continue to strive to be the best in the country for children’s services, by using the Ofsted recommendations to develop a plan to be ‘outstanding’ in every area.
She said they will particularly focus on improving educational outcomes for children in care across the borough.
Ofsted also rated the Local Children’s Safeguarding Board as ‘good’, underlining the robust support networks for children and young people in place in West Cheshire.