INSPECTORS have warned the “churn of temporary staff” continues to hold back progress in the frontline work of BCP Council’s children’s services.

Ofsted has carried out its first monitoring visit of the local authority since the inadequate rating was published earlier this year.

A letter to the council by inspector Anna Gravelle said those leading the department had taken “some important steps” that could support future progress but there is still a lot to be done.

BCP Council's director of children's services Cathi Hadley told the Daily Echo the visit showed there were "green shoots of progress" but these foundations needed to be built on.

Ms Gravelle said there is now greater clarity on what needs to be done and improved communication with staff, which is starting to see improved morale.

“However, their focus on implementing clear practice standards and embedding a consistent practice model continues to be held back by the churn of temporary staff in the front door,” Ms Gravelle said.

“This challenge is complicated by the continuing legacy of local government reorganisation and is consequently a challenge for political and corporate leaders as much as it is for the director of children’s services and her senior leadership team.”

The focus of the monitoring visit in early June was on the local authority’s ‘front door’ service, including the work of teams and staff responsible for initial consideration and response to referrals about children who may be in need or at risk of significant harm.

Ms Gravelle said: “Although basic and necessary checks are being carried out for almost all children who are the subject of referrals, and some of this initial work with children is now strong, the majority of work beyond this point remains weak.

“This is due to the varying application of thresholds in response to the needs of children, a lack of sufficient professional curiosity by practitioners in responding to risks for children and assessments that fail to consistently grasp and analyse effectively historical abuse and repeated concerns for children.”

The letter said challenges created by the ongoing impact of local government reorganisation and the use of multiple computer systems continue to hold back children’s services development.

“While there is much political and corporate commitment to resolving the problems caused by workforce instability, an anticipated package of measures aimed at tackling these issues is not yet in place,” the inspector said.

Ms Gravelle said the appointment of Ms Hadley as corporate director of children’s services in January 2022 along with a permanent senior leadership team had led to the quality and impact of practice and to drive improvement had become more thorough and gathered pace.

She said the senior team have an “honest and deep grasp of practice shortfalls”, which “underpins their aspirations and determination to improve”.

Ms Hadley told the Daily Echo: “These are really green shoots of progress but like anything you need people to sustain it and that is what Ofsted will come back and look for.

“Once we have done the six monitoring visits they will come back to do a big inspection and the proof in the pudding, as it were, is have we sustained that and we are not going to take our foot off the pedal now they have been and gone.

“We have to keep on and make sure we keep improving incrementally.”

She added: “I think this an encouraging position. I am always cautious. I need to see that build on and build on and build on again.

“It is a marathon but a marathon with some pace because children can’t wait, so we do need to do that.”