Inspectors told of ‘a magic key’ to achieving improvements to children’s lives in Wirral

Children and families in Wirral benefit from “a generally well-coordinated range of family support and early help services that make a positive difference to their lives” according to inspectors.

A check-up of multi-agency care for children and families in the borough delivered by the council, NHS and police was carried out by inspectors from Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) over several days in December.

The inspection findings have now been sent to the joint agencies involved at Wirral Council, NHS Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership, Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner and Merseyside Police.

The detailed letter outlining the inspection findings identified areas for improvement and strengths. It said: “For many children, plans are well matched to need and are used well to monitor progress. However, this is not the case for all children.”

The letter also said that “Many parents spoke positively to inspectors about the support they received” and that “parents described practitioners as ‘a magic key’ to achieving improvements in their children’s lived experiences.”

The inspectors highlighted a number of areas they identified for improvement. These are:

  • How effectively the early help offer is further developed to ensure greater consistency of access for children.
  • The proportion of children receiving early help who benefit from a coordinated multi-agency plan to coordinate that support and to help ensure that it is as effective as possible.
  • How well the early help needs of children with special educational needs and/or disabilities are met.
  • The coordination of early help between education providers and the wider partnership.

However, they also said there were clear areas of strengths:

  • Senior leaders in partner agencies have a shared and well-developed vision for early help in the Wirral. Staff across statutory and voluntary agencies have understood and engaged with this.
  • There is a broad range of locality-based early help and family support services available to children and their families that are making a positive difference. For most children who receive services, risk is reduced and their day-to-day lives improve.
  • A strong commitment to co-production and to engaging children and their families means that both the overall range of services and individual children’s packages of support are increasingly well matched to the needs of children and families.
  • The integrated ‘front door’ that receives referrals about children who may be in need, or require early help, does well in ensuring that children receive timely help and support that is well matched to their individual needs.

Leader of Wirral Council, Cllr Janette Williamson, said, “This inspection shows how services for children and families in Wirral have made huge strides in the last few years, not least as the inspectors acknowledge, because of it is ‘supported through long-term secure investment’.

“Working together with our partner agencies means we can ensure young people and families get the help they need when they need it, and although there are still areas which need improvement, this inspection shows we are making real progress in delivering for the people of Wirral. I want to thank all the staff who have shown such commitment to providing help to some of our most vulnerable members of our community.”

Cllr Kathy Hodson, chair of Wirral Council’s Children, Young People & Education Committee, said, “I welcome this letter from the inspectors which shows our direction of travel is ensuring the care for children and families is having a meaningful impact.

“To see comments such as ‘parents spoke positively to inspectors about the support they received’ shows that we are making good progress in ensuring children and families get the right help at the right time.”

Simon Banks, Place Director, NHS Cheshire and Merseyside, said, “Working together for brighter futures for our children, young people and their families is a key part of the work of the NHS with partners in Wirral.  Early help is a vital component in giving children and young people the best start in life.

“NHS Cheshire and Merseyside welcomes this report as it celebrates our collective ambition and the excellent work underway in Wirral.  We know there is more to do and this report provides some excellent guidance on how we can work in Wirral with children, young people and their families to continue to improve.”

Chief Constable Serena Kennedy, said, “I welcome the findings of the joint inspection, which recognise the huge inroads made by the practitioners from across the different organisations to ensure the safeguarding of children across the Wirral.

“We are all committed to ensuring children and families are able to access the help and support they need and it is vital that we do everything we can to ensure the safety of our children.

“We know there is still work to do and together will consistently review our practices and strive to deliver an effective, efficient and professional service where families are supported in helping to bring up their children. At the same time the professionals involved need to know that the systems are in in place to support them when difficult decisions have to be made to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children deemed to be at risk.”

Wirral Council, as the principal authority, will now prepare a written statement of proposed action responding to the findings outlined in the inspectors’ letter setting out a multi-agency response with the actions for the partnership and, as appropriate, individual agencies by 19 May 2023.

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