Ofsted inspection of Buckinghamshire Children's Social Care

Ofsted inspectors visited Buckinghamshire on 24 and 25 February to carry out an unannounced visit and assess how the Council is running children’s social care services during the pandemic.

The inspection was carried out remotely, using video calls for interviews with social workers, managers, leaders and partners, carers and children, all within national and local guidelines for COVID-19.

TheOfsted's full report was published today.

A summary of the key findings include:

  • strong partnership arrangements have ensured the provision of support to the most vulnerable children in Buckinghamshire throughout the pandemic
  • leaders have an accurate understanding of the service and have maintained a firm focus on doing the best for children and families
  • the senior leadership team has focused relentlessly on the well-being of the workforce. Staff value the exceptional support that they have received from leaders and managers and talked positively about working for Buckinghamshire
  • the recruitment and retention of a stable workforce rightly remain the top priority in the local authority’s improvement plan
  • the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) provides a proportionate response to initial concerns about children
  • threshold decisions about the provision of early help are proportionate, and transfers between early help and children’s social care are managed well
  • leaders have developed clear expectations about visiting children during the pandemic, including returning to face-to-face visiting where possible Most children are visited in accordance with their needs; however, despite improving practice in this area, visiting is not always timely for some children
  • the local authority and schools have worked together well since the start of the pandemic
  • the pre-proceedings phase of the Public Law Outline is used effectively to safeguard children; however, some practice shortfalls lead to some delays that are not purposeful
  • children in care have continued to make some progress despite the challenges presented by the pandemic. Most live in stable homes that meet their needs, with carers who are committed to them
  • care leavers benefit when they have established relationships with personal advisers, but this is not always possible given changes in the workforce - for some, this negatively affects the progression of their plans
  • leaders have strengthened commissioning arrangements. This is beginning to deliver results, with greater scrutiny of unregulated provision and the vast majority of care leavers now living in suitable accommodation

Two areas were highlighted as areas needing improvement:

  1. although management oversight is now routinely evident on children’s files, actions arising are not consistently followed up, leading to delays in some children’s plans being progressed.
  2. audit and quality assurance activity needs to be embedded and completed alongside practitioners to drive quality of practice.

Tolis Vouyioukas, Buckinghamshire Council’s Corporate Director for Children’s Services said:

“Improving Children’s Services is a high priority for the Council and we were pleased that we were commended on our seamless transition to the unitary authority during a global pandemic which Ofsted found had not caused any disruption to children’s services. We are proud of our front line staff and managers for their commitment and hard work throughout the pandemic and we are pleased this was recognised by inspectors.”