MORE needs to be done to protect vulnerable children in Bournemouth, a critical Ofsted report has concluded.
The extent of child sexual exploitation in the area is not properly understood, there is a lack of experienced social workers and too many older children are placed more than 20 miles away from the borough, inspectors found.
The report follows an in-depth investigation of children’s social services in Bournemouth and of the Bournemouth and Poole Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB).
Inspectors gave both the council and the LSCB a verdict of “requires improvement,” the third out of four ratings available to them. They gave a “good” rating for adoption performance but said everything else they assessed needed to be improved to reach the minimum expected standard.
The report states: “There are no widespread or serious failures that create or leave children being harmed or at risk of harm. The welfare of looked after children is safeguarded and promoted.
“However, the authority is not yet delivering good protection and help and care for children, young people and families.”
The key criticisms were that children and young people in need of early help did not always receive a timely response, children changed social workers too often, the council’s aspirations for care leavers were too low, too many older children were sent miles away from Bournemouth and the extent of child sexual exploitation was not properly understood.
Strengths identified by the inspectors included good arrangements between the police and children’s services, effective action when children are assessed as being at immediate risk of harm, fast and comprehensive efforts to match children with new families and the fact that social workers take children’s wishes and feelings into account.
Jane Portman, Bournemouth’s executive director for adults and children, said nothing in the report was unexpected and they knew what improvements were needed.
“There is always room for improvement and I am absolutely confident that the areas for improvement noted by Ofsted are achievable,” she said.
Cllr Nicola Green, Bournemouth’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “The report only provides a snapshot of the service and we do accept the need for improvements as we were already aware of where further development was needed in the service.
“We have already been successful in securing additional funding to meet the increased demand for frontline services.
“Children’s social care is a high priority service and the council remains committed to improving the lives of children and young people in Bournemouth.”