‘CONSIDERABLE’ progress has been made in the council’s children’s services ‘front door’, but there is still ‘more to do’.

BCP Council’s children’s services were rated as inadequate by Ofsted in 2021.

Since, the inspectorate has carried out six monitoring visits, to assess progress made, with most recent revisiting the council’s ‘front door’ service.

This was visited in June 2022 in the first visit, and inspectors returned to assess the progress made since, in their final visit before an anticipated full inspection towards the end of the year.

The ‘front door’ is the council’s Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub and is a partnership between the authority and other agencies, including the police, health and education.

This is where the council first has contact with children and families.

The report found that the service is ‘helping to keep children safe’, and that while there are areas that need more improvement, management understands what needs to be done to do this.

While the report noted progress, it highlighted areas that were in need of improvement.

It said that the quality of referrals from partners were ‘predominantly poor’, lacking depth and details.

Cathi Hadley, director of children’s services, said there are ‘very healthy relationships’ with partner agencies, and they are working to tell them what is needed in these referrals.

A ‘critical’ area for improvement noted by inspectors is that for some children there are delays in getting them the right support.

“Most often, this is due to a lack of curiosity or experience in piecing together information from several sources to best understand what will support families,” the report said.

“As a result, there are some delays in families accessing the right level of support when children are being neglected or they are victims of domestic abuse, for example.”

Cathi recognised that this was a key area for improvement but said that progress had been made.

She said the council has specialists in domestic violence and exploitation, but now it is working to ‘furnish all our staff to be able to work in those areas’.

Ofsted recognised the significant increase in permanent staff, while saying that the council has a ‘credible plan’ and is working towards it.

Cathi added that this visit marked a ‘huge milestone’ and ‘a vote of confidence’, as Ofsted said that no further monitoring visits are needed as they recognise the progress made and the next step will be a full inspection.

Councillor Richard Burton, portfolio holder for children and young people, said the report was ‘very reassuring’ as the report underlined that staff understand what needs to improve.

“We want to be good, we want to be outstanding,” he said. “That's what we want for the children of BCP.

“I'm a realist. I saw the state of children's services back when that [the inadequate report] happened.

“I would say when that report happened, to certain extent, even from the poor base, children's services did unravel a bit from that because a report like that does affect the staff.

“Lots of staff left, trying to get permanent staff in place, now everything is coming back together, they know what they need to do.

“It's improving.

“In my mind I think we should get at least requires improvement next time and hopefully with some good bits in there and then from that point it can build.

“It's a long process, but I can see the journey.”

The full report can be read on the Ofsted website.