Buckinghamshire County Council retains its children’s services

A report into Buckinghamshire County Council’s Children’s Services published today has found that, while there is still more to be done, the Council is on the right path to improve services. Following the outcome of the November 2017 inadequate judgement made by Ofsted, the Department for Education (DfE) appointed Commissioner, John Coughlan CBE (Chief Executive of Hampshire County Council) carried out a comprehensive three month review of the service. His recommendations were submitted to the DfE in June. The DfE has carefully considered and has accepted his conclusion that there is “no valid reason for the introduction of an alternative delivery model in Buckinghamshire”. This means that the Council retains its Children’s Services functions. In addition, the DfE has appointed Hampshire County Council as the improvement advisers to support the Council’s improvement programme.

As part of his review, the Commissioner met with a wide range of children’s services staff and partners. In his report, “he strongly endorses the current direction of travel of the authority” and recommends that the Council should continue to implement its current improvement plan. He also advises that while improvements are well underway and the service is working hard to improve outcomes for children and young people, it will take time to make all the changes needed.

Tolis Vouyioukas, Executive Director for Children’s Services, said: “We are encouraged by the findings of this report and as a service we are very clear on what is needed to improve outcomes for the children and young people we serve. We are very fortunate to have a dedicated and committed workforce who want to make a positive difference to the lives of children and young people in Buckinghamshire. That is the only reason we are all here.”

Warren Whyte, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “We know there is still much more to do and we have a long road ahead, but this report is encouraging. It is a particular testament to the efforts of our frontline staff and management team that we are heading in the right direction. I would like to thank them for their tireless work.”

In his report, the Commissioner also states that he is “against any local government re-organisation proposal which would break up the existing children’s services structures in Buckinghamshire”. His view is that “a two unitary proposal would not be able to replicate or duplicate” the capacity of the Council to improve its Children’s Services and “its disruption would take back the improvement journey by at least two years.” He goes on to state that “‘a single Council for the County of Buckinghamshire accountable for the entirety of its children’s services, is by far the safest option for children and, especially in the light of the current progress, has the best and most rapid chances of achieving sustainable high performance.”

Martin Tett, Leader of the Council, said: “I am pleased with the Commissioner’s findings and we will continue to work hard to secure the necessary improvements. Furthermore, I endorse the Commissioner’s extremely clear conclusions on Local Government Reform. Any splitting up of the county into two unitaries would not be positive for Children’s Services.”

Rachael Shimmin, Chief Executive of the Council, said: “Whilst we recognise that we have more to do in Children’s Services, it is positive that the Commissioner’s report recognises the strong political and managerial leadership within the County Council which provide the right conditions to ensure that we achieve sustainable improvements for children and their families.”

The full report can be found here:

The direction issued to the County Council can be found here: