Care for needy children in Milton Keynes needs to improve

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Council services to children needing care and protection have been slammed as not good enough by Ofsted.

Inspectors rated the MK Children’s Services department as ‘requires improvement’ in all five areas.

These included looking after children, adoption performance and progress of care leavers.

The report, due to be considered by councillors next week, advices the council to strengthen its procedures, improve care plans and generally up the quality of service.

It reveals how the number of looked after children in council care has increased from 285 to 358 over the past year. Some 36 of these were unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

Two thirds of all looked after youngsters are over the age of 10 and only 14 per cent are under the age of four.

The adoption rate in MK is under the national average and should be improved, say the Ofsted inspectors.

“Overall, harder-to-place children are less likely to be adopted in Milton Keynes than in similar local authorities,” said the report.

It also criticised the running of the department, stating: “Audits focus too heavily on compliance, rather than on quality and children’s experiences.”

Inspectors found data was not reliable in all areas and “management oversight” was not sufficiently robust.”

They added: “This means that elected member and senior mangers cannot be confident about the effectiveness of the services provided.”

The council was also criticised for too many changes of social workers and lack of consistency over who visits the children.

Child A told Ofsted: “They (social workers) have been to see me but it’s a waste of time...”

Lead Councillor for Children and Families, Councillor Zoe Nolan said: “It is important to note that Ofsted has found that our services for children and families are safe.

“The rating is one we share with half of the English local councils inspected so far; a quarter of councils have been rated as ‘inadequate’.

“Ofsted has outlined what is required for us to become good.

“The report identifies many strengths and we are well underway with work to address the areas for development.

“I am also pleased that our innovation has been recognised recently when we were shortlisted for additional government funding to extend our successful Family Drug and Alcohol Court”.