Government inspectors say improvements have been made at Halton Council since a damning report found a list of failings at its children’s services department.

A report published by Ofsted in November 2021 uncovered what it called ‘significant weaknesses’ in social work practice and shortfalls in management oversight and supervision that they said had ‘failed to safeguard and promote children’s welfare’.

It also said senior managers had reported a high prevalence of neglect in Halton but that there was currently no clear and consistent approach to managing the situation.

But a follow up report published today (Friday) outlining Ofsted’s most recent two day visit in November found things had improved since the arrival of the council’s new Chief Executive Stephen Young.

Inspectors viewed a range of evidence, including children’s electronic case records, performance management information, case file audits and other information provided by senior managers. Inspectors also spoke to a range of staff including senior leaders, partners and social workers.

The report said: “A determined and recently appointed chief executive officer has secured corporate commitment and significant financial investment to children’s services in their drive to improve social work practice for children in need of help and protection.

“The development of a newly established senior leadership team has begun to
accelerate the much-needed pace of change to the local authority’s improvement journey.”

But the report did outline areas which needed improvement.

These were:

  • The quality of social workers’ supervision, including management oversight of agreed actions.
  • The robustness of local authority designated officer arrangements to monitor actions.
  • Senior management access and support in emergency duty decision-making.
  • The quality and consistency of audit practice.

The council has previously identified problems attracting and retaining social workers, relying on a high proportion of agency staff, but the report said this was changing.
It  said: “Senior leaders recognise that the workforce is a key priority and have taken decisive and creative steps to recruit and retain staff.

"The development of the ‘Halton Offer’ is beginning to attract staff to work for the local authority. Social workers enjoy working in Halton and this is supported by the recent staff survey and staff feedback to inspectors.”

Milorad Vasic, executive director, Children’s Services at Halton Borough Council, said: “I am pleased that Ofsted acknowledge that practice in Halton has improved since their last visit and that they recognise the council’s commitment, backed by significant investment, to driving forward at pace, further improvements to social work practice for children in need of help and protection."

He added: "While progress is being made, there is still some way for us to go and I recognise the areas of practice highlighted by Ofsted, as being among those where we still need to do better.

“However, I am confident that we have a robust improvement plan in place that will deliver the necessary changes going forward. We will continue to work alongside our partners and with the DfE (Department for Education) to deliver on this plan.