7 questions for BCC on Children's Services

Martin Tett refused to answer questions on BCC Radio about the failed BCC Children's Services.  So the BBC encouraged us to ask our questions direct. 

Dear Mr Tett
I was interviewed by BBC Three Counties Radio last Wednesday about the failures of Bucks County County’s Children’s Services.

I understand you were invited onto the programme but declined. I think that was a great pity as I believe you should explain to residents why the Children’s Services has been assessed as inadequate by OFSTED and hold yourself accountable – not just by issuing press releases or answering questions in the Council offices from your fellow Tory Councillors (that’s the easy way) but by personally answering questions from the public and the media.

In your absence, the radio presenter, Roberto Perrone, encouraged me on air to contact you direct to get the answers to my questions. So here are seven questions. I would be grateful for a quick and personal response.

1. When the OFSTED report was published, you said that it came as no surprise to you.
Exactly when and how did you become aware that BCC’s Children’s Services were inadequate and putting children at risk? What did you do then to put these failings right? And why did these measures not succeed as the failures were still widespread and serious at the time of the OFSTED inspection in June 2014?

2. 85% of social workers in Children’s Services are now temporary agency staff.
When did BCC decide to replace permanent, qualified and experienced social workers with agency staff? Who decided this? Why? How can agency staff provide vulnerable children with the continuity they need?
How many social workers have left BCC in the past 5 years a) by natural wastage and b) through redundancy or early retirement? How many were replaced by permanent staff?

How much does a full time equivalent social worker cost BCC on average if a) a permanent employee and b) an agency worker?

3. Meetings of the Education, Skills and Children’s Services Select Committee do not appear to be posted any longer on BCC’s website and there are therefore no agendas or papers or minutes available to the public.

Nevertheless I understand that a meeting of the Select Committee met sometime this month and took a report from a Task and Finish Group on Children’s Services. I also understand that the report is not available to the public nor to all Councillors.

Why hasn’t this report been made available? When was the Task and Finish group set up? Who by? Who was on it? What were its terms of reference? And can I have a copy of the report please?

4. I understand that BCC approved £4.8m extra money for Children’s Services on the back of the unpublished Task and Finish Group’s report. I also understand that another £1m was approved later and that the new acting strategic director for
Children’s Services believes this will still not be enough money to provide even an adequate service; children will still be at risk.

I understand you have said that this money came from the Council’s reserves and that it was a good thing the Council had money in the reserves to bail out the Children’s Services.

Do you not agree that the money would have been better used properly resourcing a well-managed Children’s Services rather than sitting in the Council’s reserves while children were at risk of harm?

Exactly what is this money going to be spent on?

5. BCC is required by law to prepare a written statement of action in response to the OFSTED report within 70 days of receipt of the report.

When did BCC receive the report? When will it publish its statement of action? And can I have a copy please?

6. As BCC has put vulnerable children at risk of harm, and continues to put children at risk of harm, why have you not apologised for BCC’s failings, particularly to the children you have allowed, and continue to allow, to be at risk? Why has no-one taken responsibility for the failings and resigned?

 7. As the OFSTED inspection has revealed widespread and serious failings in Children’s Services, what confidence can residents have that the same sort of widespread and serious failings are not to be found also in the BCC’s Adult Social
Services? What independent evidence have you got to demonstrate that BCC’s Adult Social Services is providing at least an adequate service?

I am copying this to Roberto, and other interested media.

Yours sincerely
Linda Derrick (Dr)
Wycombe Labour’s spokesperson on health and social care

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