There is no disagreement that the delivery of services will be aided by the demise of the two tier system. A new Council will have the opportunity to write a new chapter. Officials at the Department for Education considered that Ofsted’s ‘inadequate’ judgement in 2014 was at the more serious end of the spectrum of failure. (Red Quadrant Report February 2015). More than two years on, Ofsted are saying that the progress of improvement is too slow, and the service continues to fail to meet its own performance targets. Improvements should not be assumed from Local Government Reorganisation alone.
Even an investment into the services, as has been shown already, will not of itself bring about the necessary improvement. A reappraisal of why the recent investment in Children’s Services by the County Council has failed to achieve the level of improvement expected by Ofsted will be required and a model developed which will enable the new Councils to achieve their performance targets. At the heart of this reappraisal will be a drive to focus professional resources on active engagement with children, families and communities and an enhanced approach to partnership working in localities building trust and a shared focus on outcomes amongst agencies.
Approaches must respond to the particular challenges faced in Buckinghamshire and the different communities within the County area. There are distinct differences between the make-up of the communities in the two main towns of High Wycombe and Aylesbury which are apparent from the data about the two places. There are also different challenges faced in the different housing areas. For example across Buckinghamshire only 48% of children are placed within the Council’s area compared to 75% in Milton Keynes. There is no shortage of housing in the north of the county whilst the south is experiencing price rises and housing shortages.
Design and delivery of local services will be sensitive to the particular needs of different communities. Improving effectiveness in Children’s Services is all about providing just enough of the right service at the right time and targeting response where it is needed. A think family approach, building family and community resilience and developing our work force so that we continue to improve outcomes for families is the way forward. This must take place in a co-ordinated, integrated and, wherever possible, co-located way with partners. There must be highly effective leadership and management with a vision of continuous improvement and strong political and community support.