COUNCILLORS were unaware Cheshire East was failing some young care leavers because the data they saw painted a different picture, a committee heard.

The council’s children’s services was recently judged to be inadequate by Ofsted, who said too many young people are leaving local authority care without the correct help and support.

Cllr George Hayes (Congleton, Con) said the information presented to the children and families committee before the inspection had not revealed this.

And Cllr Jos Saunders (Poynton, Con) expressed concerns – as she had in previous meetings – that councillors were not undertaking as many frontline visits as used to be the case.

Cllr George HayesCllr George Hayes (Image: Cheshire East Council)

Cllr Hayes told yesterday’s (Tuesday) meeting of the cared for children and care leavers committee: “Our scorecard gives us hard data and statistics which had started to demonstrate an improving picture and then the inspectors come in and very clearly turned that on its head slightly.”

He asked for oversight of the self-evaluation done by the officers and not just data.

Deborah Woodcock, executive director of children services, said: “Our data was demonstrating improvement, you’re absolutely correct in your analysis of that.”

She said Ofsted had found there were ‘pockets of excellence, pockets of really good practice’ as identified in the council’s own self-evaluation ‘but that wasn’t sufficiently spread across the system’.

Cheshire East was criticised in particular because some young care leavers were living in unsuitable accommodation.

Ms Woodcock said: “In terms of suitable accommodation, we are reporting significantly better data than our statistical neighbours and the regional and national averages and that gave us some cause for optimism.

“But it only tells part of the story and it is the quality and what is happening for the five per cent who aren’t in receipt of suitable accommodation that needs to exercise our minds more significantly.”

She said officers want to develop a process whereby councillors have more insight into quality of practice as opposed to data.

Cllr Jos SaundersCllr Jos Saunders (Image: Cheshire East Council)

Cllr Saunders, who chaired the meeting in the absence of the chair,  said she was pleased frontline visits were now being reviewed ‘so we have more insight into practices’.

Macclesfield councillor Sarah Bennett-Wake (Lab) said the national housing crisis needed to be considered when Ofsted’s inspection was being discussed.

“We discussed that five per cent [of care leavers] that weren’t in suitable accommodation is not good enough and I absolutely agree with that,” said Cllr Bennett-Wake.

Cllr Sarah Bennett-WakeCllr Sarah Bennett-Wake (Image: Cheshire East Council)

“But Peaks and Plains [Cheshire-based housing association] have got a waiting list of 12,237.

“Each house has got 184 bids on it, which is up from last year.

“I get lots of casework from people who have been given no-fault evictions and we have to recognise that.”

She added: “I know it’s really important that Ofsted scrutinise, but we also need to look at the bigger picture of the housing crisis.”

She said it was important they had that oversight too and it’s not just statistics on a page.

“Nationally about one third of people who are homeless have come through the care system in one way or another,” said Cllr Bennett-Wake.