VULNERABLE children are generally well supported and cared for by the council’s social services team, a new report has found.

The Government’s education watchdog Ofsted graded Cheshire West and Chester Council’s (CWaC) children and families service as ‘Good’ following a thorough review.

Its report, published on May 8, highlights several areas for improvement but is largely positive in its assessment of the work carried out by the team.

Lead inspector Mandy Nightingale also compliments both the political and administrative leadership of the council, which have a “strong understanding of the community”.

In her report, she wrote: “The majority of children and families in Cheshire West and Chester continue to receive a good service from experienced, skilled and well-supported social workers.

“Children’s needs are identified well and their risks are reduced, and they achieve positive change through coordinated multi-agency intervention.”

The main area of criticism was around the exploration of the impact of children’s ethnicity on their lives.

“Ethnicity and diversity issues are not sufficiently considered for children and young people during assessments, planning and direct work,” the report states.

“Practitioners and managers do not demonstrate enough professional curiosity to explore the impact of diversity for most children, meaning that they do not always have a full understanding of the child’s lived experience.”

The inspectors also found a “small number” of children’s records were not detailed or up-to-date.

The council was commended for its work identifying and protecting children who may be at risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE) or who live in environments of domestic abuse.

“Incidents of domestic abuse are well considered, and children receive an appropriate service as a result of the daily risk meetings between police and children’s social care,” the report states.

“The local authority responds well to children at risk of, or suffering, child sexual exploitation. Senior multi-agency leaders regularly monitor the risks for the most vulnerable children.”

However, it did highlight an inconsistency in the way concerns for children outside of office hours are responded to by the emergency duty team (EDT).

The inspector writes: “When workload demands are high, EDT social workers do not always have the capacity to respond to concerns about children swiftly. For one child in particular, there was a significant delay in responding to concerns for their safety and welfare.”

But it also praises the authority for investing in staff to address high caseloads.

A restructure of the ‘children with disabilities service’ has resulted in “most children receiving an appropriate intervention that is in accordance with their assessed need”.

Children missing from home or care are also said to be quickly identified and reported to children’s social care.

Similarly, youngsters who present as homeless reportedly receive a “prompt response which includes assessment of their needs, mediation and help finding accommodation”.

Furthermore, the process of placing children in long-term foster care or with adoptive parents is “well-considered”.

And when young people come to leave council care they are offered a high level of ongoing support and access to training and education.

“Social workers take time to get to know the children they work with and engage them in creative and purposeful direct work,” the report adds.

In response to Ofsted’s findings, Emma Taylor, Director of Children’s Services at CWaC, said: “We’re delighted we’ve maintained our ‘good’ rating and received such positive comments from the inspectors.

“There is more demand on Children’s Services than ever before and our staff at all levels continue to rise to the challenges we face. I’m so proud of every staff member and how they work, both together and with our partners, to provide all our children and young people with the best start in life.

“This ‘good’ rating is a real positive for all of the families we support, showing that we’re continuing to provide valuable, high-quality services.

“We will take on board the recommendations made by Ofsted and will continue to strive to make improvements so we can achieve the best possible outcomes for all our children.”