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Reports & Inspections


Council responds to Ofsted Inspection of Children’s Services

November 2019

The Children’s Services regulator, Ofsted, has rated St Helens Council’s Children’s Social Care Services ‘inadequate’ for the ‘experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers’ and, also, for ‘overall effectiveness.’

The services ‘require improvement to be good’ around ‘children who need help and protection’ and also for ‘impact of leaders on social work practice.’

This follows an inspection by Ofsted in September.

The leadership of St Helens Council has accepted the findings of the report and can assure residents that Ofsted’s recommendations are being fully actioned, with every resource possible put into improving these services.


Responding to the Inspector’s report, St Helens Council’s Director of Children’s Services, Sarah O’Brien, said;

“Whilst I am disappointed on the overall outcome of the Inspection, I am glad Ofsted acknowledged the improvements we have made since last July’s damning focused inspection, but I am disappointed that these improvements have clearly not been fast enough in some parts of the service. I do however accept the findings of the report and we are absolutely ready and willing to take these recommendations on board, learn, and improve.

“We knew from the findings of the report in July 2018 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. 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, adoption, care leavers and early help, but most importantly Inspectors did not find any children at risk of immediate harm.

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

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


Leader of St Helens Council, David Baines said,

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

“I have been clear since taking over leadership of the council, that supporting our most vulnerable residents is a top priority, and I will ensure that we continue to act with urgency on the recommendations made by Ofsted to ensure that in St Helens children in need of help and protection receive the service they deserve.

“It is no secret that local authorities continue to face severe financial challenges.  Despite this we are putting an extra £8m per year in to better supporting foster families, increasing the numbers of Social Workers and improving safeguarding and edge of care services, and have already made available an additional £7 million in 2019/20 and allocated an additional £9 million for 2020/21 in recognition of demographic pressures facing the service and rising costs. 

 “The next step will now be to continue working with our Improvement Board to develop a detailed action plan to address the recommendations made.  The plan will be a collective top priority for everyone responsible for caring for vulnerable children; elected members of all parties, council employees across the organisation and various partner agencies – all playing a part in driving improvements to the service.  Our children and young people will remain at the heart of everything we do. It is vital that each and every one of them receives the support and care they need and deserve.”

You can read the Ofsted Inspection here


Next Steps

  • An Improvement Board with representatives from various partner organisations, and with an independent chair, has already been established. 
  • The board will work together with an advisor from the Department for Education (DfE) to develop a detailed and ambitious Improvement Plan.
  • Immediate action is being taken to put the council in a position where it can make fast, sustainable improvements to its Children’s Services.