AN action plan has been revealed by BCP Council after Ofsted sent a damning letter to the local authority slamming its child services.

In November, Ofsted said there were “serious and widespread weaknesses in the quality of children’s services” in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, leaving “vulnerable children at risk of harm”.

The letter said the “vast majority” of assessments made by social workers were “unfit for purpose” and that they “lack sufficient evidence, analysis and challenge”.

The council was also criticised for putting too little focus on the longer term needs of children.

Inspectors were particularly critical of management within the department with assessments with blank sections and unchecked details being signed off as acceptable.

“There are serious concerns about the quality of management oversight,” the letter said, before adding inspectors personally had to ask for 50 cases to be reviewed over “serious concerns” for children's safety.

And in response, BCP Council has agreed a 15-point action plan to improve the lives of children.

Key actions include: leadership changes; an urgent independent review of 60 of the most complex cases in Early Help services; the introduction of an improved performance management system for staff supervision; training; service transformation; new targets for SEND (special educational needs and disability) recruitment and staff retention initiatives; and better processes for children who are subject to care proceedings.

Councillor Mike White, portfolio holder for children’s services, said: “Providing the services our young people deserve is absolutely our top priority. The urgency and attention being given to the action plan reflects this. We have already delivered on a number of actions including new leadership roles, and we are completely committed to achieving the rest before the end of March.

“The work has seven key strands to it, all aimed to make our systems stronger and to ensure our approach is always centred around the child. That way we can bring about the necessary improvements to supporting our most vulnerable children and young people.”

The council and its senior leadership team have fully accepted the findings of the Ofsted report, and provided financial help towards the cost of overcoming the failings.

Elaine Redding, corporate director for children’s services, said: “We know we have to improve rapidly if our services to local children and families are to meet the standards expected of us.

“We are working extremely hard to ensure we have a service fit for purpose to ensure brighter futures for all our young people.”

The council is working with the Department for Education to bring about the needed improvements within the service. The action plan will be subject to continuous review to ensure that progress is being made.