23 February 2016
Ofsted has rated children’s services in Cheshire West and Chester as ‘good’. The team of eight inspectors visited the area in November and December 2015 to undertake an inspection of children’s services. Their findings were positive, with the local authority being graded ‘good’ overall and ‘outstanding’ in some areas.
Catch22 delivers the Pan Cheshire Missing and Child Sexual Exploitation Service in Cheshire West and Chester and three other local authorities. Inspectors concluded that this service, in particular the multi-agency partnership working, was having a positive impact on children and families in the area.
The inspectors commented:
‘Significant work by both leaders and staff has reinvigorated partnerships with other agencies to develop and implement a shared approach to the assessment of risk and the understanding of thresholds. As a result, key strategic priorities such as children who go missing or who are at risk of sexual exploitation are clearly focused on children and families who benefit from effective multi-agency working.
‘Social workers are good at identifying when children are at risk of being sexually exploited. Children who go missing from home are spoken to quickly by expert staff and given help them to avoid problems in the future. When children go missing from school, staff work hard to find them and make sure they are safe.
‘Effective and established systems are in place to identify and evaluate risk for children who go missing or who are at risk of child sexual exploitation. Children and young people are responded to with a range of appropriate support to intervene and reduce harm.’
The inspection report identified the following areas as particular strengths of the Missing and Child Sexual Exploitation Service:
- Good work by a range of partner agencies identifies and assesses the degree of risk children may face from sexual exploitation. Screening is well established and undertaken across the partnership. As a result, interventions are delivered promptly and risks are reduced in the vast majority of cases. Screening is consistently undertaken by professionals in all agencies to identify levels of risk to young people from child sexual exploitation. This leads to interventions that successfully address and reduce risk.
- Responsive and proactive partnership working has resulted in reduced risk to children who are at risk of sexual exploitation. The establishment of a pilot specialist multi-agency team to gather and share information about child sexual exploitation in the borough is providing a range of services to support young people. The cohort of young people at potential risk is well understood and all have multi-agency plans led by children’s social care. In addition to undertaking awareness-raising, the team is providing effective support to professionals and intervention with young people, including health assessments and advice and a range of direct work. A further good and helpful development is the new workspace on the electronic record system enabling concerns about child sexual exploitation to be more easily recorded and reviewed. Effective collation and analysis of intelligence has led to further reduction of risk to young people through successful disruption activity in the borough alongside some successful prosecutions.
- Well-embedded and effective arrangements when children go missing mean that children missing from home are identified by the police and offered independent return interviews through a commissioned specialist service to discuss the reasons for their absence. In many cases, this interview is followed by direct work that reduces future risk. There are low numbers of young people who repeatedly go missing from home. Good information sharing and joint working between the police and services ensures good understanding of the cohort and any emerging themes or issues.
- Appropriate links between missing children and the potential for child sexual exploitation are being made by professionals and effective use of the screening tool to identify risk was seen by inspectors. Strategic work in the last 12 months around missing children has focused on ensuring shared understanding, practice and processes in relation to return home interviews. The regular collation of intelligence gathered ensures that professionals have an understanding of the cohort involved and issues as they emerge. This leads to identified themes being considered as part of regular performance reporting to the council and the local safeguarding board.
Commenting on the report, Catch22’s Strategic Director Frances Flaxington said:
‘I am delighted that Ofsted has recognised the significant, positive impact our services are having on children and young people in Cheshire West and Chester.
‘Working closely with our partners, the Catch22 team, led by Kathy Boardman, has worked exceptionally hard over a number of years to develop this award winning service that effectively supports children who go missing from care or home and/or who are victims of sexual exploitation. Our services are responsive to the needs of each young person and, having listened to their story, we build trusting relationships and tailor our support to meet their individual needs. This approach is clearly working.
‘Our staff have an unwavering commitment to providing the highest quality support to the young people they work with and this encouraging grading from Ofsted recognises the quality and impact of their work. We are incredibly proud of this outcome.’
- Read about Catch22’s approach to missing from home or care and child sexual exploitation services
- Find out about the Pan Cheshire Missing and Child Sexual Exploitation service
- Read out about the Children & Young People Now Partnership Working award won by the Pan Cheshire service