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'Much more to do' in county's bid to improve children's lives

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Buckinghamshire CC is making “early progress” as it bids to improve its children’s social care services “from a very low base”, Ofsted has found.

Hampshire chief executive John Coughlan was, in March, appointed by the government as commissioner at Buckinghamshire CC after Ofsted found repeated failings in support services.

In a report published this week following a re-inspection of services last month, Ofsted said improvements “are in their infancy” but “senior leaders have a clear and well-informed understanding of the significant weaknesses in the quality of work with children in need”, with “credible and well devised” plans.

It added: “There is much more to do before the substantial number of children who are subject to child in need plans all receive support which is effective in helping them to overcome the neglect and poor parenting they experience in their day-to-day lives.”

The report said social workers caseloads are too high, which limits the time they can work directly and build “trusting relationships” with children and their families.

It added managers do not consistently help social workers to improve their understanding of children’s needs, with frequent changes in some senior positions slowing improvements.

But it said “in some cases” the turnover of staff was the result of the council’s attempt to improve management oversight.

The report said: “While the impact of most social work remains too weak, there are encouraging signs of early improvement, underpinned by realistic plans to build on this foundation.”

Previous housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid said he was ‘minded to approve’ a bid by the Buckinghamshire to become a single unitary. 

Last month Mr Coughlan said an alternative proposal to break up the county into two unitary councils would take “unwarranted risks with children’s welfare” and seriously undermine efforts to improve children’s social care.

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