'We prioritise protecting children over box-ticking for Ofsted', says council leader in Milton Keynes

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His outburst follows an Ofsted report stating the city's children's social services requires improvement

An Ofsted report deeming MK's children's services to be in need of improvement has caused a political difference of opinion.

Opposition Conservative councillors say the department, which deals with children's social workers and children in need or at risk, needs to be put under the spotlight and improved.

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They say eight areas were identified as needing improvement, including timely allocation of social workers, the consistency of the quality of assessments of children in need and support for children who are privately fostered.

MK Council's Children's Services department was deemed by Ofsted to be in need of improvementMK Council's Children's Services department was deemed by Ofsted to be in need of improvement
MK Council's Children's Services department was deemed by Ofsted to be in need of improvement

The Tories have now called on the Labour and Lib Dem Progressive Alliance to set up a special committee and develop an action plan to improve children services in Milton Keynes.

The Ofsted inspection took place in October but the report was only published last week.

Tories say the most damming comments from the Inspector were contained within the statement: “elected members have not had a wholly accurate understanding of practice quality and the areas of work that have development plans in place."

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Conservative education spokesperson Cllr David Hopkins said: “This is a deeply concerning report. Clearly our children services are not delivering as they should and the political leadership needs to take responsibility for the lacklustre attempts at improvements.

“The children we care for are the most vulnerable in MK. They deserve better. Officers work incredibly hard, but political direction and leadership is lacking.

“The report has rightly challenged the council’s Cabinet for failing to grasp what is required to improve the current state of the service. Given what has happened in other areas of the country, where councils have failed their children, I think a sensible next step is to set up a task and finish group that is focused on the areas of concern outlined by Ofsted and ultimately feeds into a comprehensive action plan."

But Labour council leader Pete Marland insisted: “I am proud of the work our children’s services do, keeping vulnerable children safe on a day to day basis.

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"The Ofsted report was very clear that despite hugely challenging circumstances over the past 18 months, children in MK are protected from harm and our services perform well. I’m pleased that the report acknowledges that we are working to improve towards being rated “good” and provided some good context to allow us to make those improvements."

Pete added: "However, I’ll never apologise for putting prioritising social workers visiting families, protecting children and outcomes above form filling at a desk to satisfy box ticking for Ofsted.

"The MK Conservatives totally and utterly misrepresent the report for shabby political purposes. I’m not sure I’ve ever known any political party use the tragic deaths of children in awful circumstances to score points as they do here. It’s disgusting, pathetic and I won’t allow them to divert resources from frontline services to promote their baseless, grubby and misleading political points.

"Luckily the report will be going to the children's scrutiny committee in the new year where the truth will be clear and this disgraceful deception shown to be rubbish.

"We will continue to protect children and do what is required and we don’t need any pointers from people who use awful tragedy in this way to score a headline.”