Children’s services chief: “We have done an extraordinary amount of work since the report”

BCC Cllr Lin Hazell
BCC Cllr Lin Hazell

A check-up on Bucks County Council’s services for vulnerable children has found 
improvements are being made – but several areas still need significant work.

Services for children in need of protection are under the microscope after they were labelled inadequate - the worst rating possible - in 2014 in a damning report which raised a litany of failures.

The monitoring report, which has been published on Ofsted’s website, found that overall, improvements were being made and social care is a ‘firm priority’.

But ‘progress has not met expectation’ across many areas which still need to be brought up to scratch.

Summarising its findings, Ofsted made 12 positive comments and highlighted seven areas which were in need of work. Lin Hazell, portfolio holder for children’s services, is ‘very pleased’ with the progress they are making and wants people to look forward rather than dwelling on the damning report from 2014.

“It was two years ago, we need to move on, It’s like living in a time warp,” she said.

“We’re turning a tanker around if you think what we’re up against. That (the 2014 report) was a disaster.

“We put our hands up – it was dreadful.

“But we all sat back and looked at it and have since made a commitment to staffing, a commitment to children’s services.

“We have done an extraordinary amount of work since the report.”

Ofsted said that ‘the pace of improvement in the quality of some social work practice, the management of allegations against professionals and the response to privately fostered children are too slow’.

It said ‘considerable work’ is still needed to ‘strengthen the quality of child-in-need and child protection plans’ and the quality of private fostering remains ‘too variable’.

‘More work is needed’ to improve quality of service and ‘improvement is still required’ to ensure scrutiny of the suitability of each placement, which need to be supported with ‘regular visits and robust assessments’.

Thames Valley Police was also criticised in the report Thames Valley Police was also criticised in the report due to the backlog in screening for domestic abuse referrals.

At the time of the visit, 
450 notifications were still waiting to be screened by police – with the oldest dating back to July 31. The report states that since June 2016, ‘on-going pressures’ of police capacity have ‘caused delays’ in screening domestic abuse referrals.

Because the police ‘have not screened all notifications in advance’, the children’s social care service ‘has less information to inform effective decision-making about the need for intervention’.

This, according to the report, has ‘impacted on the capacity of the children’s social care service’.