The borough's most vulnerable young people are receiving a good level of care from the authority - despite increasing demand, significant financial pressures and the impact of the pandemic.

Bolton Council children's services was found by Ofsted to be good when it comes to looking after youngsters in care and those at risk.

Those within care and care leavers receive a good service and make good progress, as do families -  but the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection is in need of improvement.

Ofsted found that the integrated front door (IFD) has been strengthened to include early help professionals, to identify children who need support at the earliest opportunity.

Inspectors said that children’s needs are well understood, and they receive a timely response to prevent concerns escalating.

Bolton Council’s Director of Children’s Services, Bernie Brown, said: “This report reflects the continuous improvement of Bolton Council’s Children’s Services and our ongoing commitment to keeping children at the heart of everything we do.

“The outcome is a direct result of the contributions of our incredible staff, foster carers, young people, families, and our partners.

“This report follows other recent successful inspections of our Youth Justice team and our Connexions service.

“There will always be opportunities to improve and deliver an even better service for children and young people in Bolton.

“However, the report is clear that Bolton is rated good as a council thanks to strong leadership, political support, and outstanding staff.”

Children at risk of sexual and criminal exploitation receive "an effective response from the dedicated complex safeguarding team", helping to keep children safer.

Youngsters who are put on an adoption plan are "matched effectively" and, when it is in their best interests, siblings are adopted together.

Children are supported to remain with their families when it is safe to do so and most children only come into care when it is "necessary and appropriate to do so", the inspection found.

Ofsted inspectors did note: "A small number of children experiencing long-term neglect would have benefited from coming into care sooner."

The voice of young people was considered a strength of the service and in shaping services.

Inspectors stated: "Children’s voices are central in planning and for many children carefully targeted work is making a positive difference to their lives.

"The majority of children who need help and protection are swiftly and effectively identified."

The service was praised was for its 'clear focus promoting the achievement and well-being of all children and young people, with outcomes steadily improving."

The Ofsted report stated: "Many families benefit from a broad range of services, including specialist drug, alcohol and mental health support. There is also a broad range of help for children exposed to domestic abuse, including targeted work.

Inspectors added: "Given the complexities of some families in Bolton, many children require cyclical periods of social care involvement.

"Too many children, however, experience repeated periods of child protection planning due to recurring concerns, especially when neglect or domestic abuse is a feature.

"Some children are stepped down from child protection planning prematurely, and review child protection conferences do not define what future actions are needed so that children’s needs continue to be met."

And care leavers are well supported by the local authority into adulthood, including stated Ofsted meeting their "physical and emotional needs of care leavers".

Inspectors stated: "Most care leavers live in suitable accommodation.

Care leavers are helped when they are at risk of criminal exploitation.

Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are support effectively, found inspectors.

Inspectors stated: "Children’s services continue to benefit from strong support from political leaders. The chief executive and elected members have high aspirations for children

"These aspirations have been backed by ongoing financial investment, albeit in a challenging financial climate."

The director of children's services was singled out for being a "passionate and committed leader who advocates strongly for children, with an impressive knowledge of their individual experiences."

Social workers said they feel valued, with Ofsted inspectors stating they are 'well-supported'.