Strong partnership working in Cheshire West and Chester has been praised by Ofsted and other inspectorates in a Joint Targeted Area Inspection focusing on neglect.
Ofsted, HMI Probation, HMI Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services and The Care Commission found Cheshire West and Chester had a “clear and collective commitment” to improving responses to children who suffer neglect.
“Collaborative and well-coordinated work at a strategic level to address neglect has been in place for some time and the impact is evident in effective partnership working at an operational level,” said the report. “This is resulting in many children receiving a timely and appropriate response to reduce risk and the impact of neglect.”
Many professionals in CWAC receive good-quality supervision and have access to a range of training on neglect, the report finds. A wide range of agencies are involved in LSCB audits and the findings are widely disseminated across partner agencies, leading to improvements in practice.
Other key strengths highlighted include:
- There is clear evidence, across many partners, of approaches that support the early identification of neglect.
- The large majority of referrals where risks to children suffering neglect are first identified are dealt with in a timely manner.
- Social work assessments include appropriate input from a range of agencies, the identification of key risks and protective factors, and a clear rationale for the outcome.
- The LSCB and the local authority have worked collaboratively to develop a suite of neglect indicators.
- Senior managers in children’s social care have developed an environment where social workers can provide a high-quality service to children and their families.
- The local authority demonstrates its commitment to children and families through significant investment in staff to ensure a well-qualified and skilled workforce
“There is strong and very effective leadership in children’s social care, and a clear approach to developing innovative and child-focused practice to support children living with neglect,” the report added.
The report highlighted that there are a number of further ways in which systems for accessing information and communicating information between agencies could be improved in the early stages of the identification of risk of neglect to children. In addition, the outcome of early help assessments is not routinely shared with probation services.
“A key area for improvement is the timeliness and rigour of evaluating the progress of multi-agency work to reduce risk and the impact of neglect on children. In a small number of cases, there was drift and delay in ensuring that the plans to reduce neglect were making sufficient progress and meeting children’s needs,” the report added.
Inspectors also noted that there is no data or performance management information relating to neglect held in the police protection unit and this would assist the force to understand performance, demand, resource allocation and impact on outcomes for children and young people.
The report concluded that the director of children’s services should now prepare a written statement of proposed action, responding to the findings outlined in the report.