Council's Children Services go under Ofsted Microscope again
This was the third visit since the local authority was judged inadequate for overall effectiveness in January 2018.
The Ofsted report says the services are making 'steady progress' in improving the quality of intervention, but variable practice remains evident within the 'multi-agency safeguarding hub' and assessment teams.
The report also highlights the instability caused by actions taken by leaders to tackle poor performance in the 'first response service', which initially led to high staff turnover.
Inspectors considered a range of evidence, including case records, discussions with social workers and managers, and reviewing other supporting documentation.
The report noted the senior leadership team is “steadfastly determined to improve the quality of services for children” and that “substantial improvements” have been made to areas of the service which had previously fallen short. It added that the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) systems are “efficient, leading to timely and decisive action for most children”.
The report stated that management oversight of services had been strengthened and social work caseloads have reduced, leaving social workers better able to support children and families.
Areas needing further improvement were also highlighted – these included some inconsistencies in certain practices within the MASH (multi agency safeguarding hub) when children go missing.
The report says: "Not all children who go missing are offered return home interviews, and when they are offered, they aren't always completed."
While responses to clients were deemed to be mostly effective, there can be unnecessary delays in some processes and some areas of work – while generally improving - can sometimes be of variable quality.
Warren Whyte, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services said: “This is another encouraging report and confirms that our work to improve children’s services in Buckinghamshire is proceeding well.
“There is no doubt we have more to do, however, to deliver the services that children in Buckinghamshire deserve. We are determined to continue our efforts to make the improvements highlighted in this report.
“We are grateful to all our staff for their hard work and dedication as we work to further strengthen our services.”