St Helens social services 'improving' following Ofsted criticism

Councillors have been assured social services in St Helens will continue to improve
Councillors have been assured social services in St Helens will continue to improve
Share this article

Councillors have been assured social services in St Helens will continue to improve after Ofsted criticised standards following a visit last summer.

Last week Ofsted said St Helens Council had taken “swift action” in response to a damning focused visit of children’s services in July.

One of the first things the authority did following the inspection was to form an improvement board.

Linda Clegg, the former director of children’s services for Blackburn with Darwen Council, was appointed as the independent chairman of the board and has been commissioned by the Department for Education to work with the council one day per week.

On Monday, Ms Clegg updated the council’s children and young people’s services overview and scrutiny panel on the progress of the improvements.

Ms Clegg said: “Since July, an enormous amount has happened. Another focused visit happened on the 13 and 14 of November.

“They came back to have a look, again that is a published document that some of you will have seen.

“And it was a very different picture in such a short space of time, which was really impressive for St Helens to have done.”

Ms Clegg said since the focused visit in the summer, there has been an increase in the number of children in child protection and around 300 more open cases in St Helens.
She told members this was “right and proper”.

Ms Clegg said: “Certainly things are improving and are improving at pace. I think I can say that with some confidence.

“Is there a lot to do? Yes, absolutely there’s a lot to do.

“And the test for Ofsted and children’s services – I know, I lived and breathed it as a director of children’s services and working in a number of councils across the North West – it’s an incredibly difficult test.

“But there is lots happening, and we are on a trajectory to do well and to achieve what we need to.”

Town Centre councillor Michelle Sweeney asked Ms Clegg how confident she was that the council will not reverse back to previous poor practice being repeated.

“I’m as confident as I can be,” Ms Clegg replied. “You never say never in children’s services.

“With the best part of 2,000 cases on your watch, every single one you cannot be sure there’s something not right on it.

“But certainly, the work I’ve seen and the improvements we’ve seen, we’ve made a really positive start.

“So, I am confident that things here will continue to improve absolutely, but as I said earlier, never say never in children’s services because you never know what’s around the corner.

“But I’m as confident as I can be, and the start’s been great that’s been made.”