Buckinghamshire CC’s children’s social care services having been rated inadequate by Ofsted for the second time in a row.
A report published yesterday says the strategic response to an inadequate rating in 2014 has been “piecemeal”, causing progress on improvement to be “inconsistent and too slow”.
Inspectors found “serious shortfalls” in parts of the service despite improvement being identified as a key political priority and continued investment.
The report says a high turnover of social workers, large caseloads and poor recording have contributed to some children being left at risk and in unsuitable circumstances for too long.
Inspectors also identified a failure to recognise and respond quick enough to increasing risk, as well as an over-reliance on parents’ updates on progress.
Oversight by managers was deemed weak, leading to some cases being closed prematurely and children frequently being referred again.
The quality of care plans was found to be inconsistent, as many do not demonstrate a full understanding of risks to children.
The report added: “For some children, particularly those living with parents on child protection plans or under the placement with parents’ regulations, such agreements have been ineffective in ensuring that parents or other family members comply with expectations to keep them safe.”
Inspectors also said arrangements to support unaccompanied asylum seekers on their arrival are insufficient.
The report did identify improvements in some service areas, with children who need an urgent response receiving a “prompt and appropriate” service.
The report adds: “The recent appointment of an experienced director of children’s services, chief executive and new cabinet portfolio holder for children’s services, and continued support from the leader of the council, now provide the local authority with a strong senior leadership team that is committed to accelerating the pace of improvements for children.”
Buckinghamshire’s cabinet member for children’s services Warren Whyte (Con) said he is “extremely disappointed and concerned with the outcome” of the inspection.
He added: “It is our collective responsibility to make sure that we put this right.
“It is important that we do not lose sight of the strengths inspectors highlight and the improvements we have already delivered, and our continued commitment to improve.
“Above all else, my message to the children and families we support is that we remain resolute and determined to improve.”
This story was updated on 31 January to include Bickinghamshire’s response.