Wirral Council’s Leader has expressed disappointment after receiving the final recommendations of the latest Ofsted inspection of its Children’s Services department.
In all five areas of judgement, HM Inspector summarised that the service “requires improvement to be good” despite acknowledging that significant improvements have been made in a number of important areas since the last full inspection in 2019.
The latest inspection was carried out back in September 2023, but the final report is only being published this week.
Whilst accepting the judgements, Wirral’s Director of Children’s Services, Simone White, described the overall report as “harsh” as it did not fully take into account the progress the service has made since 2019, particularly in the context of the challenges it has faced over that period.
Wirral Council leader, Cllr Paul Stuart said, “The report demonstrates that, in all areas, our practice is sound and safe. There are clearly areas of very good practice identified, although we acknowledge that there are still areas where the service has been slow to improve, or has shown a degree of inconsistency, and these issues are reflected in our overall judgement from the inspector.
“In 2019, the verdict of the service was that it ‘requires improvement’ so we can take a degree of solace in the fact that we are now much closer to receiving a ‘good’ rating. We have delivered improved services even while dealing with the impact of Covid-19 on children and families and decreases to our budget due to the council needing a recovery plan due to financial challenges.”
One area of improvement that the council is pleased with and which was praised during the inspection was around ‘early help’. The inspection noted that ‘the early help partnership response is creative and effective and the response to children at risk of exploitation is well co-ordinated.
However, the report also points out that ‘standards of social work practice for children is variable across the service’ and ‘not all areas of practice have improved at a sufficient pace to meet children’s needs’.
Chair of Wirral Council’s Children, Young People and Education Committee, Cllr Sue Powell-Wilde, said, “Overall, the final report is disappointing because it doesn’t adequately reflect the improvements that have been driven forward since 2019 and that were delivered for children and families despite the unprecedented pressures of the last couple of years.
“We note the areas identified as requiring further improvement and I am encouraged by the fact that in many cases there are already plans in place and already being enacted to achieve this progress, which is again something I think the inspection could have better reflected that in its judgement.
“Providing high quality care and support for our most vulnerable children, young people and families is one of the most important duties for a local authority and our services, based on sound and safe core practices, are clearly moving the right direction.”
The full report can be read on the Ofsted website