Children’s service still ‘significantly’ behind on key performance targets

David Johnston
David Johnston

There is still ‘significant progress’ to be made bringing Bucks’ failing childrens service up to scratch, according to the new man in charge of the department.

In a report to county councillors, David Johnston said the council was still at ‘significant variance’ from meeting four out of seven key targets.

These include the repeat referral rate of troubled families coming back on the service’s radar rising in January at 31%, compared to the target of 25%, while only 44% of ‘initial child protection conferences’ were held within 15 days, compared to the target of 70%.

The department is still struggling to attract permanent social workers. Mr Johnston said: “Whilst we have been successful in bringing in additional capacity to fill posts through agency staff, we currently have 58 posts needing permanent candidates and must continue to keep up the pace on our recruitment and retention drive’.

“If we are unable to attract and retain experienced and qualified staff then we will be unable to meet the improvement plan targets and improve children’s safeguarding in Bucks.”

An overseas recruitment campaign has been launched in Romania and Northern Ireland to attract social workers to Bucks, while a new package of terms and conditions for staff has also been approved.

The council, which was lambasted last year by Ofsted for putting vulnerable children at risk, is also trailing behind targets (and other similar authorities) for the percentage of assessments carried out within 45 days (76% rather than target of 85% and similiar authorities average of 94%) and the percentage of its looked after children placed no more than 20 miles away from home (46% rather than target of 55% and similiar authorities average of 72%).

David Johnston took over from former children’s service director Sue Imbriano following Ofsted’s ‘inadequate’ rating. Since then the county council has agreed to plough an extra £12 million into the service and an Improvement Plan drawn up.

A taskforce which was sent into County Hall by the Department for Education is due to report its findings at the end of February.