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Bonkers Blog June 2014

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4 June - All fine now? Only if you are easily satisfied

OFSTEDTwo years ago OFSTED branded Bexley’s children’s services inadequate and £5·2 million has been spent trying to improve matters.

At the last council meeting on 30th April leader Teresa O’Neill and then Cabinet Member for Children’s Services Katie Perrior dropped enormous hints that the next OFSTED report due to be published after the election would be all smiles for Bexley council and Ms. Perrior could leave her post in a blaze of glory and sure enough on Page 5 of their paper edition dated 28th May 2014 the News Shopper reported that Will Tuckley was dishing out accolades to staff because things were much better. (The paper’s report does not appear to be available on line, hence the brief extract here.)

Tuckley has chosen his words extremely carefully, he hasn’t lied in Bexley council’s traditional way but he has sought to mislead the populace into thinking things are pretty good now and everyone concerned deserves their inflated salaries. In reality OFSTED reported that Bexley was still “not yet good” and “required improvement”. Its Local Children’s Safeguarding Board (LCSB) was branded “Inadequate”.

The OFSTED report is not without references to improvement but everything is qualified by caution, usually something about there still being a long way to go to get children’s services up to standard. Staff turn over has been far too high and then a few days ago we saw Director Mark Charters buzzing off to the Isle of Man.

Remove Will’s rose tinted spectacles and the overwhelmingly negativity of OFSTED’s report comes over loud and clear. There is no necessity to search out OFSTED’s misgivings they tumble from their report in almost every paragraph, here’s a taster from their 38 pages.

• The Local Safeguarding Children’s Board has not effectively undertaken its primary role
• The LCSB has a draft improvement plan but it has not had any impact
• There is little evidence that the learning from the first audit was effectively used
• Leadership, management and governance all require improvement
• Progress since 2012 when Bexley was judged inadequate has been very slow
• Management is inconsistent and a small number of children have been left at potential risk
• The quality of decision making by managers needs to improve
• Managers in care services do not always audit the work done by social workers
• Managers do not consistently record how long assessments should take and cannot identify any undue delay
• The quality of decision making is inconsistent and not always made at an appropriate level
• Serious incidents failed to result in any serious case reviews
• The sexual exploitation plan has been slow to be put into practice
• Parents, carers and organisations said they did not get a good service from Bexley
• When children leave care, plans to help them find employment are not good enough
• 37% of care leavers were not in suitable education, training or employment
• Inspectors said that Bexley’s many services are not working well together
• Services to children who need help require improvement
• Children’s ‘looked after’ services require improvement
• Adoption services require improvement
• Plans made with partner organisations need to be better
• Sometimes help is not provided where abuse is not found but families still need support
• The views of young people are not always sought
• Electronic case records are frequently incomplete
• Care proceedings take 37 weeks when the national target is 26 weeks
• Children were unhappy about the frequent change of social worker

Bexley council so often seems to operate on a system of smoke and mirrors. Sometimes of course they simply lie. Listen to leading councillors or read council press releases and you will rarely learn the truth. I don’t usually criticise the local press, they have to work at high speed and probably on an inadequate budget but swallowing Bexley council’s press releases wholesale without any checking is likely to put a whole load of codswallop into the public domain. It certainly has on this occasion.


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