OPPOSITION party members and MPs have expressed deep concerns over BCP Council’s handling of children’s services across the conurbation, following a damning report by Ofsted.

Education inspectors warned services put in place to support children at risk of harm were “not fit for purpose”and had to ask for 50 cases to be reviewed during their visit over fears for the youngsters’ safety.

Christchurch Independents have condemned the report, saying that there are “wider issues” that need addressing. Cllr Simon McCormack, the Christchurch Independent councillor who represents Burton Grange ward, said: “I have been increasingly concerned based my own experiences of case work in my ward and how cases have been dealt with by the department.

“Part of the problem has been inherited from Bournemouth and Poole, but it is clear there are wider issues. These include inadequate government funding, budgets too tight and problems with staffing, recruitment, communication and management.

“There needs to be a full internal review of what has been happening and a wider look at services because this are also a regional issue. BCP Council is by no means alone in facing challenging circumstances.

He added: “It is very clear that many children are looked after well across our area, but failing one child is one child too many.”

Meanwhile, Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood said: “This is deeply concerning.

“I understand that the council has already begun looking into this, but I would like to seek a meeting with BCP Council to ask how this situation has come about and what changes need to be made to resolve it.

“Vulnerable children have been the most affected by the pandemic, so it is absolutely imperative that the recommendations that have been made by Ofsted are met and swiftly.”

“I fully expect the council to come back and say that this has come down to issues with funding. If that is the case, they can arrange discussions with MPs so that we can take any financially issues about additional funding to central government.

“Some of the issues raised in the report address concerns into the quality of care, which sound more like cultural issues within the council and officers being aware of what decisions are being made by the council.

“Everybody is being pulled in different ways because of the pandemic and having to deal with the added pressures involved but, ultimately, that is not an excuse.”

BCP Council has yet to have a full inspection by Ofsted since its formation last year but all three of its preceding councils had been rated as ‘requires improvement’.

A visit by a team of five inspectors in October was a shorter “focused inspection” with a letter sent to the council on Friday addressing its findings.

Poole MP Robert Syms, who said the report was “obviously a cause for concern”, added: “The council are already onto this but the fact that education standards are lower than their usual levels is obviously a cause for concern because people have been out of school for so long and when you consider the time taken off by GCSE and A level students.

"The younger generation are going to be the victims of this pandemic, so we have to do everything we can to get standards back to where they were, and this needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.

"I have had a conversation with Cllr Drew Mellor about this and whilst I expressed my own concerns, I am pleased to hear that they already have a plan for dealing with this.

“I and my fellow MPs are willing to support the council with facilitating these changes and representation in government if necessary.”