A £4.8m injection of funds into Buckinghamshire’s Children’s Services was unanimously agreed by County Councillors on Thursday 18th September 2014.
As debated by Cabinet earlier this month, the release of the funds from the Council’s reserves follows recommendations made by a member-led Task and Finish Group into Children’s Safeguarding and the findings of the Ofsted report.
Introducing the motion, Leader Martin Tett stressed the importance of the task ahead for the County Council. He said: ‘The Ofsted report correctly identified a number of very important areas that we were aware of from the Task and Finish Group, that were not satisfactory. Keeping children safe is a key priority for the County Council. What we will be doing is looking at the number of challenges that have been laid out before us as a result of that Task and Finish Group and indeed by the Ofsted report. We have been looking at the significant causes of some of those conclusions, and one of the things I would reiterate is that I am absolutely not complacent in any way, shape or form about some of the significant challenges we face to improve to the level required.’
Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Tett reminded the chamber of the ‘severe pressure’ faced by staff due to the enormous increase in the number of referrals and contacts received, within the children’s safeguarding team.
During 2013/2014 the number of ‘contacts’ i.e requests for information, increased by 71 per cent, and the number of ‘referrals’ or requests for action to a perceived or potential threat rose by 70 per cent to 7675 during that same year. Just under half of those referrals came from the police and health partners. Police referrals rose by 143 per cent and those from health by 139 per cent.
Cllr Tett said: ‘These are very large increases, and although the number of referrals has begun to stabilise, what we cannot anticipate properly at the moment is what will happen as a result of more recent publicity with regard to national figures, also the situation in Rotherham and potential other cases more locally. I think we have to be prepared for potentially another sharp increase in referrals and that again is a very serious issue for us.‘
Seconding the motion, Angela Macpherson, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services said : ‘It is essential, particularly following the sobering Ofsted report that we provide sufficient capacity to deliver our statutory safeguarding responsibilities plus provide adequate staffing provision to enable us to tackle the increasing workload. Our staff deserve great praise for their dedication and commitment when they are under great pressure from increasing workloads and complex often distressing cases. The bottom line in all of this is that we, the council, have the responsibility to improve our services for our most vulnerable children so that we can deliver the best possible outcomes. I am totally committed to this work and my aim is to get us back to a ‘good’ judgement within 18 months.‘
To watch the County Council meeting webcast visit http://www.buckscc.public-i.tv/core/portal/home