Tackling ‘culture of blame’ at council’s children’s services department

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Children’s services chiefs say they are working hard to tackle a ‘culture of blame’ highlighted by a recent peer review.

The Local Government Association delivered the report earlier this year,but it was discussed by Bucks County Council’s children’s social care and learning select committee on Tuesday, when it was made public for the first time.

During a briefing to members of the committee, boss David Johnson and cabinet member Lin Hazell spoke about improvements being made at the beleaguered department, which was branded inadequate by Ofsted in 
2014.

Mrs Hazell said that improvement would only be achieved once there had been consistently good standards for six months. This type of change could take anything up to two years, she said.

When asked by committee member and councillor Robin Stuchbury what was bring done to tackle the so-called ‘blame culture’ within the department, David Johnston said: “What we have been working to do is give staff the confidence to speak out.

“They can come to anybody and say anything if they have concerns, and there will not be any consequences for them.

“There was a sense in the past that people felt that there issues were not being addressed. “

And when asked by councillor Phil Gomm how staffing levels could stay the same, referral rates could increase yet the service improve, Mr Johnston said: “Staffing levels are slightly larger because we have created the Swan Unit, our special child sexual exploitation unit. “

He added: “Referrals have remained at around 1,300 to 1,400 per month. But we now have first response, which then refers people on to other agencies, it is only a smaller core of work which comes through for assessment.”

The Local Government Association highlighted a number of areas of concern, including the need for stronger leadership.

But Mrs Hazell claimed that much of the problems identified are now resolved.

She said: “The peer review is pretty old news now and we have picked up most of the issues that were in there.

“The Department For Education report is most positive, but it is not official yet.

“We are still waiting on the letter to come from the minister to the leader to confirm what is in the report, but the general feedback is positive.”