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Sefton Council responds to “inadequate” Ofsted rating

Sefton Council has received the latest report following Ofsted’s Inspection of Local Authority Children’s Services (ILACS) which was carried out over a 3-week period at the end of February (2022)

The report concluded that Sefton’s Children’s Services at that time were rated as “Inadequate”.

Responding to the Inspector’s report, Martin Birch, Director of Education and Children’s Services who joined Sefton Council in April this year, said: “Whilst we are very disappointed about the overall outcome of the Inspection, Ofsted has acknowledged the improvements we have made since last year’s pandemic focused inspection, but these improvements have clearly not been fast enough in some parts of the service.

“We accept the findings of the report, and we are absolutely ready and willing to take these recommendations on board, learn, and improve.

“We take Ofsted’s findings incredibly seriously and we have already started making changes in response to the report.

“We knew from the findings of the report that there was much work to do in order to make the necessary changes to the department, and that this process would need both additional investment and time to improve. During 2021/22, the Council agreed a further circa £10 million investment of both permanent and temporary funding, and agreed to support the service to increase staffing levels with a new structure being approved in October 2021.

“Ofsted have recognised in this report how changes over the last year are starting to make a positive difference in areas such as the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub and the Fostering Service but most importantly, inspectors did not find any children at risk of immediate harm.  Our dedicated staff have a renewed sense of optimism and are committed to delivering the improvements needed.

“Our main area for improvement must now focus on the need for better permanence planning for cared for children, to ensure that all children know what their long-term plan is, so that they feel safe and secure about their future. We want this for all our children and to make our support for vulnerable children and young people as good as it can be.

“The next step will now be to continue working with our Improvement Board and support from the Department of Education to deliver our action plan to address the recommendations made.  Our ambitious plans will be a collective top priority for everyone responsible for caring for vulnerable children; elected members, council employees across the organisation and various partner agencies – all playing a part in driving improvements to the system so we can all deliver better outcomes for children.  Our children and young people will remain at the heart of everything we do, and their voices will be strong in their care plans and the voices of all children and young people will be strong in future Council consultation and engagement activity. It is vital that each and every one of them receives the support and care they need and deserve.”

Cllr Mhairi Doyle MBE, Cabinet Member for Children’s Social Care, said: “It is no secret that most local authorities continue to face severe financial challenges. We have made a call on Government, along with leaders from across the Liverpool City Region, to tackle growing issues nationally with the recruitment and retention of children’s social workers as these present a significant challenge not just in our region, but across other parts of the country.

“During 2021/22 we have put an extra £10 million into the budget to increase the numbers of Social Workers, better support foster families, and improve safeguarding and edge of care services, in addition to making available additional resources in recognition of demographic pressures facing the service and rising costs.

“The Covid pandemic has had massive impacts on a large number of Sefton families, many of whom are now in need of additional support from the Council’s service areas, including Children’s Services.  Demand is at unprecedented levels, which is why the Council will continue to call on Government for additional resources to support our improvement plans and to address the challenges we face in the recruitment of permanent social workers and in the children’s care market.

“There is still much work to, but we are confident that with our committed workforce, and the significant financial investment into Children’s Services, our ambitious plans can be delivered, and improvements made at pace.

“Improving our service is not just about improving the Ofsted rating, it’s about making sure children benefit from the best services possible, making sure they are safe, protected and inspired to reach their full potential.”