“Failures in children’s services in Buckinghamshire’s safeguarding services are widespread and serious,” a damning Ofsted inspection report on the local authority has concluded.
The report identified the lack of priority given to children’s services by the council’s political leaders and chief officers was a roadblock for those in children’s social care who were trying to drive up standards.
High caseloads, poor case records and young people leaving care without an up-to-date plan were among the other shortcomings noted.
As a result of these failings, Ofsted said that “children are not being effectively protected” and rated the authority’s children’s social services as “inadequate”.
As part of its recommendations for immediate action, Ofsted said Buckinghamshire needs to “ensure that the local authority as a whole takes responsibility for and prioritises the improvements needed in children’s social care”.
Buckinghamshire was the hardest hit of three negative reports published by Ofsted today, with Newham and Barnsley, which were both rated as requiring improvement [see boxes].
These were in contrast to the report on Cambridgeshire’s children’s services, which made history by being the first service to jump two grades in an Ofsted inspection, from inadequate to good.
Responding to the report councillor Angela Macpherson, the cabinet member for children’s services in Buckinghamshire, accepted Ofsted’s findings. “We recognise many of the conclusions and Ofsted’s report will re-energise the programme of significant changes we began in 2013 to the way we work with children and their families,” she said. “We had brought in additional help and support, but clearly Ofsted’s report shows our pace of improvement has been insufficient.”
Macpherson also defended the priority given to children’s services within the local authority, saying children’s social care is integral to two of the eight equal key priorities set out in their strategic plan. But she did concede that the approaches would need reviewing in light of Ofsted’s comments.
“Let me personally reassure everyone that this council will turn this around as quickly as we can so that Buckinghamshire, together with its partners get back to providing the very best processes and practices to help, protect and support our children and young people,” she said. “I will not rest until this has happened.”
Other recommendations included ensuring sufficient capacity to deal with children referred to social care, that suitably qualified staff undertake assessments and ensure that case records contain an accurate account of child’s experiences.