WYCOMBE'S Labour Party has called for the resignation of the county councillor responsible for Children's Social Services after a damning Ofsted report blasted the authority for serious failings in its protection of vulnerable youngsters.
The report, published on Friday, branded Buckinghamshire County Council’s children’s social care as ‘inadequate’, listing a catalogue of failures.
Among the concerns Ofsted raised were the management of the department, case loads for social workers being too high, some cases being unallocated to workers, and the poor quality of care for some looked-after children.
The report said: “Failures by Buckinghamshire’s safeguarding services are widespread and serious. The result is that children are not being effectively protected. Children and young people do always not receive help when they need it.”
Labour has now called for Angela Macpherson, Cabinet member for Children’s Social Services at BCC, to quit her post.
It has also accused the council of lacking compassion and of being “incompetent and uncaring”.
Linda Derrick, Wycombe Labour’s spokesperson for health and social care said, “We have known for a long time that Bucks Social Services was failing vulnerable people.
“We know this from the many cases we have dealt with where people, children and adults, have had problems with BCC’s Social Services. Time after time we have found BCC’s Social Services to be incompetent and uncaring.
“And now at last we have had this confirmed by OFSTED and now at last BCC is forced to act.
“This isn’t report isn’t about a situation which happened some time ago and has now been put right. These failures go right through the system and stem from a lack of compassion and competence at the top.
“We know that officials will be blamed. But responsibility for the services at BCC lies with the Tory-dominated Council – they can’t pass the buck to officials when they knew what was going on.”
Dr Derrick went on to criticise budgetary and staffing cuts, and the way temporary manager had been employed. She also questioned the level of experience and qualifications of some members of staff, and said the council had ignored complaints and warnings from parents and others.
She added: “And it is consistent across the whole work of the Council from maintaining the roads to cutting the grass to providing school transport – incompetent and uncaring.
“But BCC’s failure to our children goes beyond all of this – it is just disgraceful. The Cabinet member responsible must go.”
Leader of the council, Martin Tett, told the BFP on Friday that many of the issues raised by the Ofsted report had already been identified by the council, and he said that it had already been working to improve the situation.
Cllr Tett said: “I’m obviously disappointed but it’s not unanticipated. We knew he had issues and were already taking action.”
Cllr MacPherson, who has been portfolio holder for children’s services since 2013, said she “will not rest” until the situation had improved. She said: “We’re aware of the challenges. I accept a lot of what Ofsted are saying and we’re going to be working our socks off.”
The council told the BFP it believes one of the key problems it has faced in the last year is a large increase in the referral of child care cases from other organisations such as the police or health services. Cllr Tett said these referrals – which he said had increased by around 140 per cent from some organisations - had been “swamping” the department, and that they did not all lead to children being found to be in need of safeguarding.
BCC says it is now working on a costed plan to address all the issues raised in the Ofsted report. It has warned this will mean a further squeeze in other areas of the budget for the cash-strapped council next year.