EVERY current case file on a child potentially at risk in West Cheshire is to be reviewed by a team of independent experts to ensure that appropriate safeguarding action is being taken.
Examination of around 150 files has been ordered by council leader Mike Jones and chief executive Steve Robinson, chairman of the West Cheshire Children’s Trust.
The decisive action is part of the council’s comprehensive response to Ofsted criticism following an unannounced inspection of social work teams which had ruled that some poor practices had left some children at risk of significant harm.
Said Councillor Jones: “All files from across the borough will be examined and if it is found that our procedures do not meet the highest standards then action will be taken immediately to remedy the situation.
“Sadly no authority can totally protect its children from those who are minded to harm them but I am determined that we are seen to be doing everything we can to prevent them from harm-whatever that takes.”
Mr Robinson revealed that a team of experts had been brought in from outside authorities to carry out a comprehensive study of the actions being taken in each case known to Children’s Services.
Said the chief executive: “The safeguarding of children is not the sole responsibility of the council and it is possible that actions taken will also involve our partners in other agencies involved in the welfare of the young.”
Ofsted has warned that their findings could lead to the re-grading of Children’s Services – rated as three-star ‘performing well’ – to “performing poorly” grade.
Said Councillor Jones: “We have responded to these findings but it seems as though there is little we can do about the process which somewhat unfairly will affect the complete service.
“However, we acknowledge that the inspectors are unhappy with things they found with regard to some child protection investigations and the review of all our case files by independent experts will be just one of actions we intend to take.
“We were desperately unhappy with the safeguarding service inherited on Local Government Reorganisation and a tremendous amount of work has been done to improve the way we work in this vital area.
“I have stated before that safeguarding is one of our main priorities and I want to assure the residents of West Cheshire that Ofsted will be left in no doubt of our intentions in this respect.”
Dr John Stephens, Director of Children’s Services, said: “This comprehensive and proactive review of all our cases demonstrates an absolute commitment to do everything within our power to secure the safety of our children and young people.”