Buckinghamshire County Council Children's Services back under the Ofsted microscope

Buckinghamshire County Council Children's Services back under the Ofsted microscope
Buckinghamshire County Council Children's Services back under the Ofsted microscope

The report high highlights 'shortfalls in capacity', and children finding it difficult to 'build meaningful relationships with social workers' because of the high turnover of staff.

The report highlights the variability of services, and the increasing demands of a diminished workforce and a high turnover of staff are having on the quality of the service.

The report however, does mention 'some early signs of improvement' but follows this up next sentence with, "There remains too much variability in the quality of assessment, planning and intervention. The impact of this is that some children do not receive the help, protection and support they need."

Buckinghamshire County Council Children's services looks after some of the most vulnerable people in society - providing social care to young people that need it, to safeguarding and protection of those children.

After two disastrous Ofsted reports in 2016, the failing service narrowly escaped central government intervention last year as Department of Education (DfE) recruited chief executive of Hampshire County Council, John Coughlan, to carry out a review of the struggling services.

At the time, the DfE concluded there was "no valid reason” to hand the services over to the government, and advised the council to continue with its improvement plan.

In the letter published yesterday inspector, Donna Marriott, said: “The senior leadership team has ensured increased oversight of child protection planning since the inspection.

“They have begun to review child protection planning for disabled children and for children who have been subject to plans for longer periods, having identified weaknesses in practice.

“As management oversight has been strengthened, this has led to an increase in applications to the court.

“However, continuing weaknesses in the effectiveness of child protection planning remain, as evidenced in sampling by inspectors.”

What this years Ofsted report gives with one hand, it takes away with the other. It reads: "Leaders are under no illusion about the extent of the improvement that is needed, and they demonstrate a determination to deliver this.

"They have been assertive in seeking to strengthen the quality of practice and ensure greater compliance with basic practice standards.

"This is beginning to improve practice outcomes for children, but there has also been a negative impact on the capacity of the workforce in some parts of the service.

"There remains too much variability in the quality of intervention, which means that not all children are effectively helped and protected."

Last year a report presented to Bucks County Council’s (BCC) cabinet on in May stated children’s services are at “tipping point”, having overspent its budget by £1.7 million in 2017/18.

More funds have been allocated in this years draft budget to top up the ailing service which sets aside an extra £3.7 million for adult social care, while £61 million has been set aside to fund road repairs.

Warren Whyte, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services said “We are all encouraged by the recognition that improvements are being made.

"As noted by Ofsted, we are under no illusion about the extent of improvements that are needed and we are determined to deliver these improvements for the children of Buckinghamshire.”

Inspectors added there are “continuing weaknesses” within child protection planning – as some plans lack clear timescales for delivery and are difficult for parents to understand.

However, Ofsted praised council leadership teams for increasing oversight of child protection planning since the January inspection.