Bournemouth care for vulnerable children not improving, reorganisation to blame

CARE of vulnerable children in Bournemouth has not substantially improved in four years and Local Government Reorganisation is partially to blame.

The latest report by Ofsted, following an inspection in July, rates the council’s children’s services department overall as ‘requires improvement’, but in particular the work of managers is judged to be ‘inadequate’.

The report by HM Inspector Nicola Bennett states: “A planned local government reorganisation of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole into a single local authority, and the delivery of a number of frontline services, such as the out-of-hours children’s service and multi-agency safeguarding hub, in partnership with other authorities, has inhibited the ability of the local authority to deliver timely service improvements.

“A reduction in the number of senior leaders has also impacted on the capacity of the local authority to ensure effective oversight of service performance to deliver practice improvements.”

The report states that the borough “has not progressed a number of key areas identified as requiring improvement at the last inspection”.

According to Ofsted, managers do not have enough data to assess the impact of the department’s work, and are not themselves sufficiently scrutinised.

Also, the inspector found the borough was not “rigorous” enough in its response to potential child sexual exploitation, leaving children at risk.

Bournemouth council has pointed out that “43 per cent of local authority children’s services department are also currently rated by Ofsted as ‘requiring improvement’, including Dorset County Council and Borough of Poole”.

Councillor Nicola Greene, cabinet member for education and children’s services, said: “Whilst we acknowledge that some of our services need focused improvement to be judged as ‘good’, we are confident that the future can and will be consistently bright for children’s services in Bournemouth.

“The establishment of the new council for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, now just seven months hence, along with the skills, commitment and enthusiasm for change amongst our staff right now, means we have the basis upon which to build a service that performs well across the board.”

The report praised some elements of the service, noting the quality of services to children with child protection and children in need plans, children in care and children with a disability, fostering services, private fostering and adoption and services for separated and unaccompanied children seeking asylum.

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