Children’s Services still inadequate – and still no proper scrutiny

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8 March 2021

Last month I asked what was happening on adult social care in Bucks and I found this a difficult question to answer; Bucks Council is not required to produce any public reports (see blog of 18 Feb below).

It’s a bit easier for Children’s Services because it is inspected by OFSTED. And two reports for OFSTED went to the Children’s and Education Select Committee last week.

The first report was a self- evaluation by BC of how it has made its procedures COVID-safe. It’s a very positive report.

What I didn’t realise, until I listened to the webcast, was that OFSTED had visited BC last month to assess BC’s COVID arrangements and the self -evaluation was prepared for OFSTED as part of the process.

OFSTED’s report will be published in April. The Head of Children’s Services implied that Council members will be pleased with the report. However, come April, we will be able to see for ourselves.

The second report was a different kettle of fish. This was a progress report by BC on its latest version of its Improvement Plan for Children’s Services. The Improvement Plan was originally required by OFSTED way back in 2014 when OFSTED assessed BC’s Children’s Services as inadequate.  As far as I am aware, that assessment stil stands.

Depressingly, the report shows that BC's Children's Services is still struggling to deliver anything like an adequate service, let alone a good one.

The Appendix to the report gives a Red, Amber, Green assessment of 47 outcomes. One outcome has been completed and two are on green. Six of the outcomes are on red and the rest are on amber.

On children in care and care leavers, the Appendix says: -

- “The detailed knowledge individual social workers have about their children is not always reflected in the information recorded on case files.

- Poor historical leadership in both Children in Care teams has resulted in gaps in knowledge and practice amongst the workforce.

- There is lack of consistent and effective management oversight and supervision. - Actions to address poor practice has led to turnover of staff and caseload pressures. This has not assisted in ensuring that there is consistency and good planning for our children and young people.

- Achieving consistent levels of compliance has been and remains variable.

- Audits and case sampling indicate that there needs to be improvements in understanding the history (chronologies), current assessments, permanency tracking and the ability to plan effectively."

On Child Protection Advisors and Independent Reviewing Officers, the Appendix says: -

- “[Officers] develop positive relationships with and detailed knowledge of their allocated children but they do not yet consistently challenge deficits in practice effectively. This means outcomes for children have, in too many cases, remained poor.

- Limited management oversight across operational teams has led to drift, delay and poor practice in care planning. [Officers] need to work more effectively to help secure the right outcomes for children and young people.”

Cllr Stuchbury raised these worrying assessments at the Select Committee but the Committee was reluctant to address them. The only response was a 5-minute defense of Children’s Services from Cllr Dhillon, the Chairman of the Select Committee. He seemed to forget that it was the job of members of the Select Committee, including himself, to scrutinise the Service not defend it.

The person who should have been answering scrutiny questions was Cllr Shaw, the responsible Cabinet member. However, what with Cllr Dhillon - and the Head of Children’s Services - jumping in to answer, I don’t think Cllr Shaw had to account for anything.

In fact, members of the Committee probably spent more time thanking officers than they did scrutinising the performance of the Service.

Now I am all for thanking people, like social workers, who are doing a very difficult job in very difficult circumstances. But vulnerable children are entitled to robust scrutiny of the care that BC provides them – and the Select Committee failed in its duty to provide that scrutiny.

Finally, I noted there was a 15% increase in the number of cases (it’s not clear since when) and that cases are now more complex so each case takes more resources.

Spend for Children’s Services is budgeted to go up by 2% in 2021/2 (from £75.7 million).

You can work it out for yourself. Either Children’s Services will overspend drastically – or even more vulnerable children will not get the care they need. Or probably both.

Adult social care in Bucks - £150 million budget and so little scrutiny.

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19 February 2021

You have to work hard to find out what is happening on adult social care in Bucks. No reports of inspections, no press releases from Bucks Council, no updates on social care at the last Select Committee. Or if there are, I couldn’t find them. All I could find was some information in the papers for Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting - all 900 pages of it.

That’s really not the right way for BC to account for its duty to care for vulnerable adults and a budget of £150 million.

But for those who haven’t had time to find and read 900 pages, here’s some questions and answers.

1. Has BC got enough money this year for its adult social care?

BC’s Adults Social Care budget for 2020/21 is £150.1 million. There is a forecast overspend of £9.1 million – an overspend of £9.3 million due to COVID 19 and an underspend of 0.2 million on business-as-usual items. The COVID overspend is covered from un-ringfenced government grant.

However, two significant risks are flagged up:-

“ Significant risks remain around the ongoing funding for clients within the Hospital Discharge programme and Provider failure.”

There is no further explanation of these risks.

Now I can guess that the risks around the Hospital Discharge Programme means it is uncertain how many people during a pandemic will be discharged from hospital and will need adult social care. But it would be helpful to have some idea of the extent of this need and the possible funding implications.

I can also guess that the risk of “Provider failure” is the risk that adult care homes in Bucks will decide, or be forced, to close because they cannot afford to continue. Care homes were under financial pressure before COVID 19 but the pandemic has brought some of them right to the edge. If they cease trading, then BC has a statutory duty to step in and ensure continuity of care.

But again, it would be helpful to have some idea of the severity of the risk this year - how many care homes are in difficulties, how many people would be left without care if they folded and how much would this cost BC?

But no information on this.

So, I guess the answer to my question is BC thinks it has enough money in its budget this year - unless of course BC can’t cope with patients being discharged from hospital or care homes collapse.

2. How are adult care services coping?

There are reports on eight performance indicators. One is on red, three on amber and 4 on green. The one on red shows BC isn’t reaching its target of 80% of service users having control over their lives. That’s it.

So, I have no idea whether adult social care services are coping.

3. What’s the budget for next year and is it enough?

The budget set for 2021/22 is £156.5 million i.e. 6.5 million more than this year. This includes a “growth” of £9.3 million and “savings” of £2.3 million. There is also a £6m contingency in case of provider failure next year because “the care market is fragile”.

Robin Stuchbury, a Labour Councillor, asked for clarification. He asked whether all care homes in Bucks were in a financially stable position and, if not, what financial provision would BC need to make. He also asked if it was realistic for adult care services to find savings of £2.3 million next year.

Councillor Macpherson responded. And we learnt that:

- BC had distributed £19 million to support private sector care homes so far, presumably from Government funding; - BC had limited control over the risk because care homes were independent businesses;

- £9.6 million had been added to the budget to meet market pressures;

- Yes. adult social care services had to find £2.3 million in “efficiencies” i.e. £2.3 million of cuts.

So, the answer is £156.5 million plus £6 million in contingencies with the £2.3 million in cuts – and BC are crossing their fingers that this will be enough.

Finally - with no thanks to the old district councils

Councils across the country find themselves in difficult financial positions, caused by 10 years of Conservative austerity and exacerbated by the pandemic. However, the Cabinet papers say, rather smugly, that relative to other councils, BC is in a significantly healthier position because it holds £47 million in General Fund Reserves.

What the papers omit to say is that most, if not all, of the reserves come from the old district councils; the old county council was in debt up to the hilt.

Humbug from Conservative BCC Councillors

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2 January 2020

At the end of the decade, I thought it would be interesting to review Bucks County Council’s record on delivering its Children’s Services.

In 2010, after 13 years of a Labour Government, OFSTED assessed BCC’s Children’s Services as excellent. This wasn’t some sort of blip but the result of a steady improvement from a good performance to excellent.

In 2011, BCC maintained this excellent performance.

There were no assessments for the next two years.

Then early in 2014, the then Head of Children’s Services wrote to the Chief Executive of BCC to warn him that BCC was failing the children it should have been protecting. She told him that the main reasons for the failure were swingeing cuts to the Children’s Services budget.

BCC then cut the budget of Children’s Service by a further £1 million.

In June 2014, OFSTED carried out a full inspection of BCC’s Children’s Services and assessed them as inadequate – the worst rating. OFSTED published a scathing report. The Government put its own consultants and managers into BCC to take over Children's Services.  

Over the next three years, OFSTED paid four monitoring visits to BCC’s Children’s Services and wrote four critical reports.

In November 2017, OFSTED carried out its second full inspection and once again assessed BCC’s Children’s Services as inadequate.

Over the last 2 years, OFSTED has paid four monitoring visits covering different aspects of BCC’s Children’s Services.

OFSTED’s report on its last visit was published last month.

According to BCC’s press release, OFSTED says BCC “is continuing to make improvements to services for children in care”. What OFSTED actually says is that “There is evidence of limited improvements..”

BCC’s press release also quotes OFSTED as saying the Council’s political leaders are ‘committed corporate parents’. What the press release doesn’t quote is OFSTED’s comment on BCC’s corporate parenting board. OFSTED says “there is insufficient structure to focus the board’s activity, and no work plan, targets or delivery dates. It also lacks a focus on demonstrating what difference it makes in delivering improvements for children in care.”

OFSTED also said that “further work is required to increase the number of local foster families because too many children continue to live too far from home.”


So the facts are that under a Labour Government, BCC ran a good Children’s Service, steadily improving to provide an excellent Service by 2010.

However, during the last decade under a Conservative Government, Children’s Services suffered a catastrophic collapse. For at least the last 5 years, Children’s Services has been inadequate. And there is no evidence that it has significantly improved its performance.  

There doesn’t seem to be much press coverage of the latest OFSTED visit.

However, the Bucks Free Press reproduced a BCC press release on the Council’s Christmas gift appeal (link below).

It reproduced a statement by Councillor Warren Whyte, the Cabinet member for Children’s Services. He said he “is so pleased that the appeal continues to be incredibly successful year on year. He added that “Sadly there are many people who find Christmas to be a really difficult time. With these gifts we are able to help make vulnerable children and young children feel special.”

It reproduced a photo of Councillor Whyte with the Leader of the Council, Martin Tett, smiling and holding presents.

I think it is great that hundreds of presents are given to disadvantaged children at Christmas through the charity of residents.

But I have to point out that Councillors Tett and Whyte are responsible for the inadequacy of the statutory Children’s Services. Vulnerable children depend on Children’s Services to protect them throughout the year.

And I wonder if Councillor Whyte, a Conservative councillor, understands that the Conservatives have caused the “really difficult time” which he says many people had over Christmas.

Does he understand that the Conservatives, with their vicious cuts, have put millions of children Bucks into poverty?

It would be better - much better – if Conservative Councillors could once again deliver an excellent Children’s Service for vulnerable children and young people – not just a present at Christmas.

Otherwise, it’s humbug.

Closure of Seeleys House – yet another underhanded, duplicitous, dissembling and callous approach by BCC to find money by cutting vital services to some of the most vulnerable people in society

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20 January 2019

At long last, Bucks County Council has published its proposals for a replacement for Seeleys House. Seeleys House provides residential respite for vulnerable adults.

BCC proposes to convert part of the Aylesbury Opportunities Centre to provide residential care facilities by August 2020. The Seeleys site is to be sold with a suggested receipt of £4.5 million.

The transfer of the service from Seeleys House to Aylesbury and the running of the proposed new service at Aylesbury is to be contracted out to a new provider.

Trouble is the proposed residential care facilities at Aylesbury will only be for “those with very complex behavioural or physical needs”. And BCC provides no definition of “those with very complex behavioural or physical needs.”

BCC says this will be “a significant shift” for all the users and their carers and families who are currently using Seeleys House, but who will be ineligible for residential respite at Aylesbury.

“A significant shift” is the sort of language BCC uses when it wants to hide what is really happening.

Because this won’t be a “significant shift”; it will be a devastating loss.

It will be a devastating loss for users and their carers and families when there is no residential respite at a safe and secure building in Bucks with trained and experienced staff. It will be a devastating loss to vulnerable people and their carers who depend on residential respite to give them some relief from the unremitting stress of providing care.

BCC has recognized that respite is vital for the health and well-being of the carers of vulnerable adults. It has recognized that it will cost us more in the long run if carers collapse under the strain.

What an insult to call the loss of this service a “significant shift”.


BCC defends the closure of purpose-built residential respite facilities as being complementary to its “fundamental approach of promoting independence and reducing reliance on long term services”.

We are talking here of vulnerable adults who may have learning disabilities, or autism or serious physical conditions – not “very complex” perhaps, but still requiring constant help from their carers and families. How exactly is removing residential respite at a purpose built facility going to promote independence and reduce reliance?

This isn’t a “fundamental approach of promoting independence and reducing reliance on long term services”.

This is an underhanded, duplicitous, dissembling and callous approach by BCC to find money to bail them out of their financial mess caused by their own incompetence and the Government’s continuing policy of austerity.

BCC is trying to find the money by cutting vital services to some of the most vulnerable people in society.


Finally, BCC says the people facing this devastating loss will need “careful transitional support and planning." Too right they will - where are the users and their carers and families going to find safe and secure residential respite with trained and experienced carers when Seeleys House is closed?

Moreover, BCC are going to entrust this “careful transitional support and planning” to whoever wins the contract with BCC for the service – a contract which will undoubtedly be at a substantially reduced cost than at present.

Remember what happened last time BCC contracted out its residential respite services? The service was assessed as inadequate by the Care Quality Commission, vulnerable adults were subjected to institutional abuse and BCC lost over £5 million.

Driven by the free market ideology and the need to find money, BCC never learns.

Not surprisingly the proposals aren’t going down too well with Councillors, the press and, most importantly, organisations representing disabled people (see below)

Will BCC listen? You must be joking.

Rising demand for Children’s Service is result of child poverty and deprivation caused by welfare cuts says LGA – but Martin Tett blames the parents

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13 January 2019

A couple of days ago, councillors on the Budget Scrutiny Committee of Bucks County Council asked questions about the large overspend on the Children’s Services budget.

About 5 years ago, the budget for Children’s Services was about £40 million. BCC then cut the budget by £1 million. The Head of Children’s Services warned that this would put vulnerable children at risk. OFSTED promptly walked into BCC and agreed with the Head of Children’s Services. It assessed Children’s Services as inadequate.

Subsequent independent investigations said BCC councillors had put their own political reputations before the protection of vulnerable children.

Five years later, Children’s Services are still in need of improvement; according to BCC’s own assessment its performance is a “mixed bag”.

Moreover, BCC is now spending nearly £72 million a year on Children’s Services, an 80% increase on 5 years ago. In addition, BCC is failing to control its spend; it overspent by £9 million on the Children’s Services budget last year and has already overspent by £4 million up to September this year.

So the questions to Warren Whyte, the BCC councillor responsible for Children’s Services were, quite rightly, pointed.


Councillor David Watson kicked off by saying BCC needed to understand what was going on; if it didn’t, Children’s Services budgets would just get bigger and bigger. So what were the root causes of the increase in the budget?

Councillor Warren Whyte’s response was less than convincing.

He said the rising demands on Children’s’ Services was a national challenge caused by the changing nature of families and children (whatever that means).

He added that the main cause of the overspend was the increase in the number of children in care. This had increased from 476 to 506 last year i.e. by 6%.

Now even Councillor Warren’s best friend would have to point out that 30 extra cases were unlikely to account for the £9 million overspend. That’s £300,000 each.

So it came as no surprise that Councillors Martin and Bendyshe- Brown didn’t buy this explanation. They really wanted to know why the budget set for last year was so catastrophically wrong – and would it be possible for Councillor Whyte to get a grip on it this year?

To which the answer was - probably not, it was all very difficult and complex.

Meanwhile, the Executive Director for Children’s Services answered the original question about root causes. The answer should have got more attention and I bet Martin Tett wouldn’t have liked it.

The Executive Director said the huge increase in the budget stemmed from BCC’s previously inadequate services and the poor decisions Children’s Services had made in the past. Children failed by BCC in the past were now older and with more complex problems. Resolving these problems, including through the courts, was costing BCC a lot of money. (BCC doesn’t quite put it like that. They refer to the children who have been failed as “legacy cases”).

The Executive Director also said many of the new cases, particularly in Wycombe and Aylesbury, now stemmed from domestic violence, and drug and alcohol abuse.

And he also repeated that this is a national problem – which it is.

Unfortunately, neither the Executive Director nor Councillor Whyte gave an explanation of the national causes of the increased demand for Children’s’ Services. So, Councillors Watson, Martin and Bendyshe-Brown might like to look at the link below where the BBC provides an excellent explanation.

In summary, the largest single factor in families becoming involved in child protection is deprivation. Children living in the poorest areas of the country are at least 10 times more likely to be taken into care than those in the most affluent parts. In the most deprived areas about one child in every 60 was in care, compared with one in every 660 in the wealthiest areas.

So you would expect an increase in demand for Children’s Services in Bucks but not as much as elsewhere in the country - Bucks is an affluent county. You would expect Bucks to be able to cope efficiently with the small increase except, as the Executive Director said, BCC has made such a mess of things in the past it is now paying the price.

According to the Local Government Association, rising child poverty and deprivation, caused by welfare cuts, is driving up demand. This is coupled with increases in homelessness, domestic violence, child sexual exploitation and mental illness.

At the same time, funding on services which would provide support - on public health, mental healthcare, domestic abuse refuges and the police - has also been cut.

Funding has gone to firefighting the crisis. This has been at the expense of services designed to prevent problems getting out of control in the first place, such as Children’s Centres, parenting courses, and youth work.

All the evidence shows that the increased demand in Children’s Services is caused by austerity – a policy actively supported by many of the Conservative Councillors on BCC including its Leader, Martin Tett.

The increased demand has been exacerbated in Bucks by years of mismanagement and incompetence in running Children’s Services – at a time when Martin Tett was Leader.

BCC cannot control its budget for Children’s Services. Martin Tett and BCC has to accept some responsibility for this failure and for putting children in Bucks at risk.

But no. Instead Martin Tett blames vulnerable parents for “dumping” their children on BCC’s doorstep.

It just makes me feel queasy.

BCC’s clarification of its respite strategy as clear as mud

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20 December 2018

Bucks County Council has been consulting on its proposed changes to its respite provision for vulnerable adults. I found the consultation paper incomprehensible (see blog below of 3 November 2018). Many of the people affected by the changes, and their carers, also found it incomprehensible. So too did some county councillors.

So I asked BCC some questions for clarification. Unfortunately the answers are as clear as mud so I've had to provide a translation.

I just hope that someone is looking out for the vulnerable people and their carers who need residential respite; it’s pretty obvious they are going to need all the help they can get when this strategy is implemented.

And there is still no word on a replacement for Seeleys House, the only place in Bucks which provides residential respite for vulnerable adults. BCC said it was committed to replacing Seeleys House with purpose built accommodation for vulnerable people which could operate to a higher standard.


BCC has now signed up to a strategy to provide residential respite only to adults with the “most complex needs that cannot be met within a community context”. Could you tell me what "a community context” means please?

BCC’s answer

“The aim of the new Better Lives Strategy is to help people to lead fulfilling lives and maximise their independence. The current offer of short breaks does not always enable people to do this because there is a limited range of options available and therefore reliance on residential based services. “Community context” means any type of provision that is not based solely on a residential service. Some examples of community based short breaks are provided in the strategy - these could be activities in the community that everyone can access such as Waddesdon Wednesday Club or Simply Walks. They could also be targeted activities designed to meet the needs of specific groups of people (e.g. older people or people with autism), examples of this type of activity are Alzheimer’s Society Café and the Age UK Befriending Service.

The new Short Breaks strategy builds on the principles of Better Lives and sets out our intention to provide residential respite only for those people with the most complex needs whose needs cannot be appropriately met in community alternatives, and where carers needs necessitate that respite is provided in this way. We believe that we currently provide residential respite to some people whose respite needs may be better met through activities in the community rather than through an overnight stay.”

My translation

BCC is providing residential respite to some people who don’t need it. So in future we are only going to provide residential respite to people who do need it.

However, taxpayers might ask why we are providing residential respite to people who don’t need it. They might ask why we need a strategy to stop wasting taxpayers’ money. So we will surround our explanation with loads of waffle to cover this up.

Of course it still means BCC will not provide residential respite in future to people who do not have the “most complex needs” - for example people with autism or learning difficulties. No-one seems to realise that we are going to leave these vulnerable people up the creek. So we will surround this with waffle too.



What is BCC's estimate of the number of people now receiving residential respite who will no longer be eligible under this new strategy? What is this in percentage terms of those people needing residential respite?

BCC’s answer

“We do not have a number for this as it will be dependent on assessed care and support needs which can change over time. We do not envisage a reduction in the number of people eligible for a respite service. However, some people may have their respite provided in a different way that is not a residential overnight service. In each case, the service provided will be based on the most appropriate way to meet the assessed needs of each individual.”

My translation

We don’t know.



How much money will this save BCC?

BCC’s answer

“There are no current savings targets linked to short breaks. One of the key reasons for implementing the strategy is that there has not been a single approach to the provision of short breaks within the county. Personal care packages do not always reflect best practice in helping people to stay independent. There has been inconsistency in the way packages have been offered. Primarily our focus is on increasing independence. We want to ensure we do not increase people’s dependence on services when there are more suitable alternatives to meet someone’s assessed needs. With limited resources and growing demand, we also want to ensure that we are using our resources fairly and targeting them at those who need them most.”

My translation

We don’t know. (We won’t mention that adult respite falls under ‘Direct Care and Support services’ - and Direct Care and Support Services has to make cuts of £400k this year and £524k next).



BCC's strategy says its definition of short breaks does not cover the situation “when a carer or personal assistant goes on holiday and temporary cover is required”. Could you provide the rationale for this decision please. Surely where the carer goes while respite is provided is irrelevant; if respite is an assessed need, it has to be provided?

BCC’s answer

“We would class this type of break as temporary cover, rather than respite. However, your feedback on this point is helpful and we will review how this is worded in our Short Breaks Policy to make sure it is clear.”

My translation

We think this is a really good question but we don’t know the answer.



The policy also says that in these situations, “the service users should use their Personal Budget to buy temporary cover”. Does this mean BCC thinks it has no responsibility to provide respite if a vulnerable adult has a personal budget? Is the responsibility then completely on the vulnerable adult to find their own respite?

BCC’s answer

“If a person is assessed as having an eligible need for respite their personal budget will include an amount for this. It is up to the person to decide whether to use a commissioned respite service or take a direct payment and source their own provision. As part of a personal budget, we provide a one off payment to cover emergencies or short term periods of care.

People with personal budgets are supported to access our Brokerage service, which can help them to arrange their own care packages. This service is free for people who are eligible for community based activities. Self-funders pay a brokerage service fee of £300 including VAT.”

My translation

Yes and yes.



One of BCC's officers said at the Cabinet meeting that "action had been taken to ensure people understand the report as fully as possible”. Could you tell me who are the target audiences for the different parts of the paper and what action BCC has taken to ensure the different parts of the paper are fully understood by the target audiences?

BCC’s answer

“Consultation and engagement with service users, carers and partner organisations informed the development of the Short Breaks Strategy. It has also fed into the next phase of our work, which is consultation on the draft Short Breaks Policy. Targeted service user engagement was delivered via Talkback.

The strategy has been written to meet requirements of a broad range of stakeholders including social workers, other Local Authority Staff, our partner organisations and families. We anticipate that the Short Breaks Policy will be of greater interest to service users and their families. Whilst the strategy sets out our ambition for how we deliver short breaks, the policy will provide the practical detail on our short breaks offer including access and eligibility. The consultation provides an opportunity both to shape the content of this document and to test whether we are presenting information in a way that people understand. We will also continue to work with our communications colleagues on the accessibility of the policy.”

My translation

BCC has produced one consultative document which is intended for everyone, including vulnerable people using the respite services, their families, carers, Councillors, local authority staff and other professional people.

We didn’t test the document to ensure it could be understood by all our target audiences. Nor did we write the document in Plain English nor get professional help from those who understand how to write so that families could understand. After all, that might expose what we are actually saying. Which is that BCC is going to cut residential respite services for all but a very small group of people.

But we are doing lots of engagement and that sort of stuff.

2 incomprehensible strategies for respite services approved by BCC

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3 November 2018

Last week, the Bucks Free Press reported on a paper to Bucks County Council’s Cabinet about respite services. Cabinet received the results of its latest consultation and agreed two strategies – one for children and one for adults.

(BCC actually call this “short break services” but I’m going to stick with calling it “respite”: this is about hard-pressed carers being at crisis point because they get little or no respite from caring for vulnerable people; it is not about a trip to the seaside).

Lin Hazell, the Cabinet member for health and well-being, urged carers to read these important papers.

However, I noted that one of the councillors at the meeting, Councillor Chilvers, said he found the 150 pages in the report quite challenging to get through.

And I groaned.

I had found the consultation papers which BCC put out during the summer absolutely incomprehensible so didn’t look forward to another 150 pages on the same lines. Councillor Bill Bendyshe- Brown had found the consultation papers difficult to read as well (see blog below of 26 August). So there are a least three of us who find all this difficult to understand.

I was not reassured by one of the officers saying “action had been taken to ensure people understand the report as fully as possible”.

Nevertheless I have been tracking BCC’s residential respite services for nearly two years now and I thought I had better see what the paper had to say. What did I learn? Well virtually nothing about the plans for residential respite for adults. Just the following few snippets: 

- Cabinet was told that local authorities have to provide access to a range of services for adults “in order to meet somebody’s assessed needs. Therefore, it has been recognised through decision making that ceasing provision is not an option”.

So BCC clearly considered closing down its residential respite provision altogether but found it is legally required to provide it. So that’s some relief. 

- The majority of spend on adult respite is on Seeleys House (about £1.1m) and a block contract at Downley Heights (just over 130k). There is a further £50k spent on spot placements, mainly with a provider of respite in Reading and some unquantified amount spent on respite for older people.

There are no specific targets for cutting the budget for adult respite. However, adult respite appears to fall under “Direct Care and Support services”. And Direct Care and Support Services has to make cuts of £400k this year (£330k already delivered) and £524k next year. 

- BCC has now signed up to a strategy to provide residential respite only to people with the “most complex needs that cannot be met within a community context”. There is no explanation of what “a community context” means. There is no estimate as to how many people who are, or would be, receiving residential respite, will no longer be eligible. And no estimate of how much this will cut from the budget. I’ll ask. 

- 324 people were in receipt of Council funded respite in 2017/18. But most confusingly, there was a list of situations not covered by BCC’s definition of “short breaks”. One of these was “when a carer or personal assistant goes on holiday and temporary cover is required”. In these situations, “the service users should use their Personal Budget to buy temporary cover”.

And I thought, hang on, isn’t respite intended to let carers go on holiday? Why is BCC excluding holidays for carers?

Or does this mean BCC thinks it has no responsibility to provide respite if a vulnerable adult has a personal budget? Is the responsibility then completely on the vulnerable adult to find their own respite?

Who knows? I’ll ask.

As for the rest, it’s the same old stuff – incomprehensible management speak. Here’s a few examples:-

“We know co-creation is critical to achieving our vision”.

“We want to use co-production with children, young people, parents and carers to develop and review our short breaks offer.”

“The strategy for short breaks and the new programme of work is aligned with the vision and values set out by the Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group".

If you want to read the papers yourself they are at the link below, pages 45 – 200. Good luck.

Meanwhile, I’ll ask BCC exactly what action they took “to ensure people understand the report as fully as possible”.

Why are we paying Hampshire County Council to do BCC’s job?

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16 October 2018

I’m falling a bit behind with the responses I’ve had to my blogs. This one is about two responses on Children’s Services.

In August, I blogged about the role of Mr Couglan, the Commissioner for Children’s Services in Bucks (see blog of 16 August 2018 on the early help page).

Mr Coughlan, who is also the Chief Executive of Hampshire County Council (HCC), published a report in July on BCC’s Children’s Services. He had been appointed to do this by the Department of Education because BCC had since 2014 “failed systematically and persistently in its delivery of children’s social care services”.

The report said BCC had only started on the right path this year; progress since the damning report in 2014 was “partial and limited in its genuine impact on performance”. Moreover, it would take a minimum of three years of “sustained and determined effort” to deliver an effective Children’s Services.

In the light of the report, the Department of Education appointed HCC as BCC’s improvement advisors. This means, amongst other things, that HCC chairs BCC’s Children’s Services Improvement Board.

I asked BCC how much it was paying HCC to act as its advisors. It replied “There are no cost implications for the authority.”

Fair enough I thought. So I asked the Department of Education. It said it had paid Hampshire County Council just over £23,000 for Mr Couglin’s report.

They also said the Department would be paying HCC £600 a day for its work as improvement advisors although the number of days to be carried out had not yet been agreed. (I have asked to be updated on this).

Meanwhile, I suggested that Martin Tett, the Leader of BBC, ought to apologise to two Councillors – Julia Wassell and Martin Farrow. They had said children’s services had not been prioritised by BCC in the past and asked for assurances for the future.

Councillor Tett described these comments as disappointing, cheap, nasty, reprehensible, inaccurate, giving the lie and disgraceful (see my blog of 27 September 2018 below).

Martin Tett did not respond to my suggestion for an apology. However, he did respond to the Bucks Free Press (the link is below).  He said:

“No, I will not be apologising to Ms Wassell or Mr Farrow. In fact I think Ms Wassell owes Mr Whyte an apology for the way she deliberately distorted and twisted his words.

“Of course I have no problem with the normal challenge from opposition members at county council. That is part of democracy.

“But this was a reprehensible attempt to make residents and others potentially watching, such as Ofsted, believe that we had not made children’s services a priority and starved it of the necessary money.

“In fact we have made that priority even clearer since 2014 and doubled the budget to £60m now, at a time when other budgets have had to be reduced”.

The trouble is it was OFSTED itself, in its 2014 report, which said BCC hadn't prioritised children's services. It was the Secretary of State's advisors that said improving services was slow "because key politicians cared more about BCC’s tarnished reputation than they did about safeguarding Bucks children”.

And Councillor Tett must know that BCC cut the budget for children’s services by £1million in 2014/5 against the strong advice of its Director.

So there was nothing reprehensible about Councillors Wassel and Farrow criticisms.

Moreover, the budget in 2014/5 was about £40 million so BCC hasn’t doubled its budget. If it is £60 million now (and I haven’t checked), the budget has increased by 50% not doubled.

Councillor Tett can’t even get his numbers right.

And it still begs the question as to why the budget has increased dramatically – and Children’s Services are still inadequate.

Under Councillor Tett’s watch over the past 5 years, the Council has been heavily and repeatedly criticised by OFSTED and two sets of advisors to the Secretary of State.

Taxpayers in Bucks are paying Councillor Tett about £55,000 in allowances a year plus travel and subsistence. We also pay Councillor Whyte, the responsible Cabinet member, £34,000 a year, BCC’s Chief Executive £200,000 a year and the Director of Children’s Services £155,000 a year.

However, taxpayers are also paying Hampshire County Council £600 a day to ensure that BCC is doing its job.

You have to ask why?

And still no apology from Councillor Tett for any of this, not least to the thousands of vulnerable children BCC has failed on his watch.

Even more concerned about Councillor Tett. Did he lose his cool and his memory about Children’s Services?

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27 September 2018

A few days ago I became concerned about Martin Tett, the Conservative Leader of Bucks County Council.  He didn’t seem to know whether health and social care were in crisis or not (see blog of 25 September 2018 on the health page). 

Now I’m really concerned.  He also seems to be suffering from amnesia over Children’s Services – not to mention completely losing it at a Council meeting.   His colleague, Councillor Whyte who is responsible for Children’s Services, also seems to have lost his grip on reality.

Martin Tett, had a rant at two opposition Councillors – Martin Farrow and Julia Wassell.   

The Bucks Free Press reported Councillor Tett as saying:

“… I find some of the most disappointing comments I have heard in my quite long period now at this county council from Mr. Farrow and Ms. Wassell.

Normally we operate here on a very cross party basis, trying to protect the most vulnerable in our society.

And I find their attempt to score very cheap, and quite frankly nasty political points, at the expense of vulnerable children quite reprehensible.

The fact that they are trying to generate that we are starving children’s services of essential funding, and therefore de-prioritising children’s services is completely inaccurate, we have actually increased that budget from around £38 million to £60 million during a time when budgets are incredibly tight

And I think that gives the lie to quite frankly a disgraceful series of comments from the opposition.”

So what did Councillors Farrow and Wassell say to get such a vitriolic response? 

Martin Farrow said:

1.     Demand for Children’s Services could be predicted using statistical analysis.

2.     Children’s’ Services had not been prioritised by BCC in the past which had ultimately led to today’s budget pressures.

He asked for reassurance that appropriate funding and planning was now in place and that this would be appropriate to ensure the most vulnerable children in Bucks are protected in future.

Julia Wassell agreed with this and added:

3.     If BCC didn’t focus on preventative work, there was going to be a higher demand for Children’s Services.


Well you might ask, why did Councillor Tett describe these comments as disappointing, cheap, nasty, reprehensible, inaccurate, giving the lie and disgraceful? 

To begin with, isn’t it the responsibility of opposition Councillors to scrutinize BCC’s performance?  Aren’t they entitled to express dissent?  Aren’t they there to seek reassurance for their constituents?  Aren’t they there to oppose?  And surely they are entitled to do this without bringing on a rant from the Leader of the Council?

Let’s have a look at the other point Martin Farrow and Julia Wassell raised – that Children’s Services had not been prioritised by BCC in the past which had ultimately led to today’s budget pressures. 

Let’s have a look at the facts.   

In January 2014, in a letter leaked to the Bucks Herald, Sue Imbriano, then BCC’s Head of Children’s Services, wrote to Chris Williams, then Chief Executive of BCC.  She warned him starkly and in some detail that BCC was failing the children it should have been protecting and told him that the main reason for the failure was lack of resources.   

Far from increasing the budget, BCC actually cut the budget of Children’s Service that March by £1 million.   

Ofsted arrived in June 2014 and assessed Children’s Services as inadequate.  It was a scathing report.  

It said elected members had known about the concerns in children’s social care for at least 12 months. They had agreed to provide additional funding but merely reacted to events, injecting cash to cover overspends rather on the basis of strategic planning. Political leaders had said children’s social care was not the highest priority for the County Council.

BCC had to produce a recovery plan for the then Secretary of State, Nicky Morgan.  However, she took just 7 days to reject BCC’s plan and put in her own advisor, a company called Red Quadrant.

Red Quadrant produced its own scathing report in January 2015 slating BCC for its slowness in getting its Children’s Services up to an adequate standard and criticising BCC for its failure “at the highest corporate level” to own and drive through the necessary changes.  

Red Quadrant said progress was slow because key politicians cared more about the Council’s tarnished reputation than they did about safeguarding Bucks children. 

By now BCC had had to pump at least £8 million into Children’s Services, over 20% of its budget.  It also had to pay the cost of Red Quadrant’s services.   

 4 years later, OFSTED said BCC’s Children’s Services was still inadequate and the Secretary of State appointed a Commissioner to oversee BCC’s Children’s Services.

So it looks as though the facts bear out what Councillors Wassell and Farrow said; BCC did not prioritise Children’s Services and its incompetent management led to the current budget pressures.   It looks as though Martin Tett owes them an apology.

Oh I nearly forgot.  What did Councillor Whyte say?  

He said the new children’s services team had been making great strides ……, we are prioritising the most in need…., unfortunately the excellent service to the most vulnerable children comes at a cost”.

Hardly worth commenting on.  Councillor Whyte is still in cloud cuckoo land.

What OFSTED said (see blog of 2 August below) was that BCC was making some early progress from a very low base.  BCC doesn’t have an excellent service; it is inadequate.  And everything comes at a cost - particularly a totally incompetent council like BCC.




When Conservative and Lib Dem Councillors agree with me on adult social care, I must be right!

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26 August 2018

I’ve said for a long time that Bucks County Council is financially incompetent, including losing millions of pounds on outsourcing adult social care. 

Now Katrina Wood, the Conservative Leader of Wycombe District Council, agrees with me.  She said at the July WDC Full Council meeting:-

Residents in this area know what kind of service they have received from the County Council.  They know that ….. the cost of providing adult social care has been allowed to spiral out of control …”

Who needs an opposition when the Conservative colleagues are happy to criticise? 

I’ve also been asking for clarification of BCC’s proposals on its respite services for vulnerable adults.  Their proposals are totally incomprehensible and full of management jargon.  

BCC believes the law “does not require an authority to explain its information or ‘translate’ it into ‘layman’s terms’”.  I disagreed, particularly in a policy area which affects vulnerable people. 

The proposals went out to consultation and were considered by BCC’s Select Committee.  And I was delighted when Councillor Bill Bendyshe-Brown, a Conservative, agreed with me. 

He said “The strategy could be written in far plainer English. .. some of it is convoluted, quite difficult to understand, it is quite difficult to bring the threads together. How can we adjust the strategy to make it much more readable?  We should be trying to make it much easier to read.”

I do wonder, when even Councillors cannot understand the proposals, if it really is a valid consultation? 

I have also been asking what the “community alternatives” might be if respite is no longer offered in a purpose-built centre. 

So again I was delighted to see Councillor Steven Lambert, a Lib Dem, ask for clarification, suggesting that once services were “chucked over” to the voluntary sector that was the end of the service.

So, ever willing to be helpful, here’s

My Plain English version of BCC’s consultative document

“BCC can’t afford to provide the current respite services because we are broke. 

We know respite is vital for the health and well-being of the carers of vulnerable adults.  We know that if they collapse under the strain it will cost us more in the long run.  Nevertheless, we are going to cut £524, 000 from the £1.2 million budget – a cut of 44%.  

We are going to make the cuts by closing Seeley’s House which provides respite in a secure, purpose- built centre with trained staff.  The service at Seeleys requires improvement and we would need to invest considerable resources to get it up to a good standard and fit for adults with complex needs.  And we are not prepared to do this.

However, closing Seeleys House is not going to be popular with users and their carers as it is the only respite they have. So we are not going to talk about Seeleys House in this consultation documents – forget we mentioned it.

We are going to replace Seeleys House with a “residential short break facility” somewhere in Bucks, although it will only be for people with multiple and complex needs.  But we haven’t worked out the details yet – like where it will be and how many beds it will have and what we mean by multiple and complex needs.   However, this will leave a lot of vulnerable adults who currently use Seeley House – such as those with autism or learning disabilities - ineligible to use the replacement facility. 

So that’s not going to be popular either.  So we will skip over that bit too – forget we mentioned it.

So what are the community alternatives?  Well we have got some wonderful ideas. 

One of these is what we call “domiciliary” services.  This means that someone moves into the home of the vulnerable adult while their main carer takes respite.  Let’s say the vulnerable adult is a woman with learning disabilities or autism living with her parents. At present, the parents can take their daughter to Seeleys House and then decide how to spend their respite, perhaps inviting friends around or going away or doing some decorating.

Under this proposed domiciliary service, the parents have two options.  They can either go away for a break leaving their daughter at home with a comparative stranger sleeping in a spare bedroom, if they have one.  Or they can stay at home with the relief carer also sleeping in the home and hope this will allow them some respite.

Actually, when we think about it, we’re not sure this idea is going to be popular – forget we mentioned it.

Another idea we have is “Shared Lives”.  This is a sort of fostering arrangement.  The vulnerable adult stays with a foster family who has been approved by BCC and has previously established a good relationship with the vulnerable adult.  This of course relies on enough people volunteering to take a vulnerable adult, who may have difficult behaviour problems, into their own home.

In fact, we are not sure this is a runner either – forget we mentioned it.  

And then we sort of run out of ideas.   We would then simply leave it to the vulnerable person to sort out or contract the whole thing to the voluntary sector.   

We know this is not going to go down well - so forget we mentioned it.   

In fact, when we got this far, we realised there were so many things we didn’t want to mention or spell out that we were in a bit of a fix.  So we decided to mix it all up with the issue of day-time activities for vulnerable adults and pretend it’s not really about respite – it’s all about helping vulnerable adults be more independent. Oh and we decided to throw in a lot of jargon and incomprehensible verbiage. 

In any case, no-one will notice over the summer.

There - job done.”  



What OFSTED’s report on Childrens’ Services actually says

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2 August 2018

Three days ago, OFSTED sent a letter to Bucks County Council giving the outcome of their recent monitoring visit looking at BCC’s Childrens’ Services.  BCC’s Childrens’ Services has been assessed as inadequate (the worse rating) since June 2014.   

The monitoring visit looked at services for children and young people who are the subject of a child in need plan, perhaps because they have been neglected or abused, or are ill, or have a disability.

1.     Here’s OFSTED’s summary of the findings:

“From a very low base, the local authority is making some early progress in improving services for children and young people who are the subject of a child in need plan.”

and its overview:

“Senior leaders have a clear and well-informed understanding of the significant weaknesses in the quality of work with children in need. Plans to improve practice are credible and well devised. Senior managers are strongly committed to moving forward at a realistic pace, and are determined to achieve rapid and sustainable improvements in children’s circumstances and outcomes…

“However, improvements are in their infancy. There is much more to do before the substantial number of children who are subject to child in need plans all receive support which is effective in helping them to overcome the neglect and poor parenting they experience in their day-to-day lives.  

“Caseloads are too high, and this limits the time that social workers have available to spend working directly with children and their families. This, in turn, reduces their ability to build trusting relationships with families that will provide the basis for challenge, support and positive change.

“The quality and impact of management oversight and supervision are too variable: managers do not consistently support and assist social workers to evaluate and build an improved understanding of the needs of children. This reduces the progress that children make. Frequent changes of managers in some parts of the service have further impeded improvements….


2.     Councillor Warren Whyte is the Councillor on BCC’s Cabinet responsible for Childrens’ Services.  Here’s what he said about the visit:

“The outcome of Ofsted’s monitoring visit is a positive start and confirms that children’s services in Buckinghamshire are heading in the right direction.

“There is no doubt, there is much more to do. It is encouraging that the key issues it raises are ones the service has already identified and is working to improve.”

Well this is one interpretation of what OFSTED said. 

Councillor Whyte doesn’t mention that the “positive start” is “from a very low base” or the “improvements are in their infancy”. 

Nor does he mention that BCC has had 4 years to make this start.  Councillor Whyte gives no explanation as to why it has taken 4 years to get started.   You wonder when the services will actually improve – another 4 years?   Or will BCC be bankrupt, like Northamptonshire County Council, before it manages to provide a good service?  

3.      OFSTED’s report was reported in the Bucks Free Press online yesterday.  The headline was:

“'Progress is being made' towards improving Bucks County Council's failing children's services, says Ofsted

And the first paragraph said:

Progress is being made with county’s failing children’s services and the council is set to achieve “rapid and sustainable improvements”, according to Ofsted.

Neither the headline nor the paragraph reflect what OFSTED actually said.   OFSTED said “From a very low base, the local authority is making some early progress” which is rather different from “progress is being made”.

OFSTED said “Senior managers are .. determined to achieve rapid and sustainable improvements in children’s circumstances and outcomes”.  It never said the Council was “set to achieve” those improvements.

I may be determined to land on the moon but it does mean I’m going to get there.

I expect Councillor Whyte to try to put a positive spin on a poor report from OFSTED – it’s what he does. 

But I don’t expect the Bucks Free Press to do likewise.  I expect them to provide an impartial and accurate report.  And their all- important headline and first paragraph are neither impartial nor accurate.  

4.     I couldn’t find the story on the Bucks Herald’s website (and it doesn’t seem to have a search function).



Extracting information from BCC on social care shows just how incompetent and secretive BCC is.

13 April 2018

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I thought I would share with you what it is like finding out what Bucks County Council is doing.  

You can see from the blogs below how reluctant Bucks County Council has been in giving information about Seeleys House which provides residential respite to vulnerable adults. 

There have been no statements about the institutional abuse at Seeleys House nor about the loss of £4 million pounds of taxpayers’ money. 

There has been no statements at all since March 2017.  Councillor Appleyard, then the responsible Cabinet member, said BCC was committed to building a replacement for Seeleys House by November 2018 and BCC would close Seeleys House.  

So on 12 February, I asked Councillor Tett, the Leader of BCC, what plans BCC had in place for meeting the demand for residential respite from vulnerable adults when Seeleys House closed.   

On 6 March, back came the response:-

there are no plans in place to close Seeleys House by the end of 2018.

The County Council is currently exploring potential options and we remain very clear that no services will be closed until appropriate alternative provisions have been sourced for the clients within.   

All clients will receive a review or reassessment, as appropriate to determine their needs.

Well this was good news in a way.  It meant BCC had changed its mind about closing Seeleys House this year and vulnerable people and their families had some certainty for some time.

However, BCC had also told users that it was not possible to bring Seeleys House up to a good standard which means that vulnerable people continue to receive inadequate services.   Moreover, families are very concerned as to what these “appropriate alternative provisions” might be. 

So on 11 March, I wrote again asking what the alternative options were. 

On 12 April, I got this response:-

“We are reviewing our existing residential short breaks service and we will also explore the need for short breaks in different parts of the County.

As well as receiving respite in a building-based short breaks service, respite can also be provided in different ways, expansion and development of these different ways may be considered along with looking at different providers and diversification:

·       It is the council view that there should be respite for clients with multiple and complex needs which would be buildings based service(s). This will be based on the outcome of individual assessments and whether a building base best meets the individual assessed needs.

·       Other community based options for people with less complex needs might include services such as domiciliary care, PAs, Shared Lives etc.”

Now I find this response incomprehensible.   I really don’t know whether the person that wrote this deliberately set out to confuse and withhold information or whether he or she simply finds it difficult to explain what BCC is doing in Plain English.    

So yesterday I asked for clarification.  I asked what BCC meant by a building - based service.  I pointed out that any short break which includes overnight respite must involve a building (assuming BCC don’t expect vulnerable people to sleep in the open or in a tent).  

I also asked BCC to explain what the community options were.  I could guess what domiciliary services were but had no idea what PA and Shared Lives mean.  

We will see what BCC says next time and how long this will take. 

Perhaps BCC needs reminding of two things. 

First, BCC should already know how many vulnerable people are statutorily entitled to respite under their care plans, and what sort of respite those people require.    Surely this information has been aggregated by BCC and could be made available.  This would go some way to answering questions.

Second, BCC has a duty to uphold the principles of public life.  One of these principles covers openness.  It says

Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands it”.

No-one should have to keep asking questions about BCC’s activities.  No-one should get answers in dribs and drabs – nor answers which are impossible to understand.   

Lack of openness only raises suspicions about what is actually happening.   These suspicions have proved to be justified in the case of Seeleys House.  

A cover-up, misleading information and no-one held to account. It's normal business at Bucks County Council

2 March 2018   

In my blog below I estimated that Bucks County Council had lost over £5 million in a company called Bucks Care Ltd. 


I asked BCC:

> How much money BCC calculated it had lost in setting up Bucks Care Ltd (and its associated company)?

> How had that figure been arrived at? 


BCC’s answer to the second question says:

“The accounts of Bucks Care have been both prepared and audited by Grant Thornton in line with Companies Act requirements.  As a company owned by BCC the residual costs have been transferred to BCC.”

What BCC are saying is that it won’t tell me how it calculated its losses.  If I want to see the calculations, I have to look at the accounts prepared by the auditors for Companies House.

Now I’m not an accountant.  I’m an ordinary resident of Bucks who would like to understand how BCC lost so much money on a commercial venture.  I think I am entitled to a non-technical and understandable explanation for BCC losing so much of my taxes.

However, apparently BCC doesn’t agree.  It doesn’t want to explain. 

Nothing daunted, I looked at the accounts for Bucks Care Ltd and the parent company, Bucks Support Limited, on the Companies House website.   


BCC’s answer to my first question is:

“At the cessation of Bucks Care, in 2016/7, there were residual net costs to be funded by BCC of £463K.  The gross costs of cessation totalled £1863 but these one-off costs need to be considered against the on-going savings delivered to the Council of £1.4 million each year on both contract costs and service delivery.”  

I looked everywhere in the accounts of both Bucks Care Ltd and Bucks Support Ltd for something called “residual net costs” or “gross costs of cessation” and for the figures of £463K and £1863K.  But I could find no reference. 

I therefore believe these are figures BCC have calculated themselves rather than figures prepared by the auditors.  As BCC has refused to provide its calculations, I have no means of checking the figures.   When this happens, I wonder why BCC is deliberately concealing the truth.  I think that is known as a cover-up.

I also think it is misleading of BCC to say it had “on-going savings” of £1.4 each year on contract costs and service delivery.   

When Bucks Care Ltd was set up, BCC cut the money going to the social care now to be provided by the company – presumably by £1.4 million a year.  As a consequence, the services which had previously been assessed as good, deteriorated rapidly and were assessed by the Care Quality Commission as inadequate. 

BCC got what it paid for – over-paid managers and institutional abuse of vulnerable people.   

This was not a saving.  It was a cut to services.   

In no way should the £1.4 million/year cut be set against the liabilities of the company.

I’m going to make it easy.  The revised accounts now on the Companies House website give a figure of £3,920,119 for the net liabilities of Bucks Support Ltd, the holding company.   

That’s the figure I am going to use – or rather I’ll call it £4 million. 


I also asked BCC:

> How BCC managed to lose so much money?
> Who was responsible?
> How have those responsible been made accountable?

BCC said the losses were caused by the “unsatisfactory trading performance of the company, overseen by its Board of Directors.”   BCC tried to work with the Board to improve performance but “insufficient progress was made”.   BCC’s contract with Bucks Care was then terminated. 

In other words, the financial collapse of Bucks Care had nothing to do with BCC, despite the fact that it wholly owned the company, had appointed the Directors of the Board and knew it was plunging into debt years before the plug had to be pulled.

And no-one was held accountable, least of all Councillor Michael Appleyard, the Cabinet Member responsible for social care at the time, or Councillor Martin Tett, the Leader of the Council, throughout the debacle. 

So no change there.

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What plans does BCC have for delivering residential respite when Seeleys House closes?

12 February 2018   

In my last blog on Seeleys House (on 4 January below), I calculated, as a conservative estimate, that BCC had lost over £5 million in out-sourcing some of its adult social care to a company it set up called Bucks Care.  This out-sourced care included the provision of residential respite for vulnerable adults at Seeley’s House. 

BCC had closed the company down and brought the services back in-house.

I sent the link to my blog to Martin Tett, the Leader of Bucks County Council.  I asked him

- how much money BCC calculates it has lost in setting up Bucks Care Ltd (and its associated company); 

- how has that figure been arrived at;

- how has BCC managed to loss so much money; 

- who was responsible; and 

- how have those responsible been made accountable for the loss. “

Martin Tett said my e-mail was “being treated as a Freedom of Information Request and you will receive a reply in line with FOI procedures”.

Freedom of Information requests are required to be answered in 20 working days.  I have had no response so presumably BCC can’t or won’t answer my questions.

So I’m going to assume the following, unless BCC tells me differently:-

-        BCC lost over £5million;

-        BCC lost the money by incompetence and lack of oversight and proper governance;

-        Councillors Tett and Appleyard (the latter was the Cabinet member for adult social services at the time) were primarily responsible; and

-        No-one was made accountable for the loss.

The next question is how BCC is going to provide residential respite for vulnerable adults in Bucks when BCC sells Seeleys House at the end of the year.   I can’t find any authoritative statement from BCC on this issue and I know it is causing acute anxiety to vulnerable adults who need residential respite, and their families.  

BCC’s website says Over the next five years 10.6 million people will take on a new caring role for a disabled, older or seriously ill relative or friend. The contribution these unpaid carers make to the health and wellbeing of our general population is immeasurable.

However, caring without enough support in place can take its toll. Many carers find they do not have the time or energy to maintain relationships, stay in work, or look after their own health and wellbeing.”

I couldn’t put it better myself. 

Unfortunately, vulnerable adults and their families have already suffered from the inadequate care and institutional abuse that occurred at Seeleys house while it was out- sourced to Bucks Care.   They continue to suffer because Seeleys House is still only at 50% capacity and, according to the Care Quality Commission, still needs improvement. 

Those vulnerable adults funded by the NHS (and who have the most complex needs) are still not able to get respite at Seeleys House because it is not up to the standard required by the NHS.

Not enough support is in place and, in BCC’s own words, caring is taking its toll.

So I’ll ask BCC for its plans – if they have any.


Incidentally, if anyone is affected by the problems at Seeleys House but doesn’t want to discuss this publicly, Buckinghamshire Disability Service has set up a Seeleys House messenger page.   You can join by asking Alex McPherson on BuDS Facebook page.  

BuDS is also starting a major new research project looking at respite services for people with learning disabilities in Bucks.    Really good news.  


OFSTED assesses BCC’s Children’s Services as still inadequate 3 years after last inadequate assessment.

29 January 2018   

OFSTED published its report of its re-assessment of Buckinghamshire’s Children’ Service today.  It assessed Children’s Services as inadequate.  OFSTED last did a full assessment in August 2014 when it assessed Children’s Services as inadequate. 

“Inadequate” is the worst assessment a Council can receive.

The only part of the Service which has improved is the adoption service which is now assessed as good.

What on earth do you call a Council that says Children’s Services is its top priority – and still provides inadequate services for vulnerable children? 

What on earth do call a Council that has had over 3 years to put things right – and has paid millions of pounds to consultants put in by the Government – and whose leadership, management and governance are still assessed as inadequate?

What on earth do you call a Council that, in the teeth of an inadequate assessment for Children’s Services, plans to cut the budget again and close all its Children’s Centres?   

How does BCC justify the plans when OFSTED says “Children benefit from a range of early help services and receive a well-coordinated service when more than one agency is involved with them.”   

Incompetent doesn’t seem strong enough somehow.   Utterly incompetent?   Delusional?  Uncaring?

BCC has been failing vulnerable children for years – and is still failing them.  Perhaps the words to use are disgraceful and scandalous.



The link to OFSTED’s report is at

The first few paragraphs of OFSTED’s Executive Summary is below.  I’m sure we will be returning to the subject again.  

“Overall progress in improving services for children in Buckinghamshire since the last inspection in 2014 has been inconsistent and too slow. The strategic response to change has been piecemeal and has not successfully achieved the required wholescale improvements to services for vulnerable children. Consequently, at this inspection inspectors found serious shortfalls in some parts of the service, which led to services for children in need of help and protection and for children looked after being judged inadequate.

The high turnover of social workers, high caseloads in some teams and poor recording have all been significant contributory factors to the slow progress of children’s plans, and have led to some children being left at risk and in unsuitable circumstances for too long. Frequent changes in social workers or visits conducted by rotating duty workers make it hard for children to develop trusting relationships or for social workers to properly understand children’s experiences and circumstances.  

A failure to recognise or respond promptly to increasing risk and an over-reliance on parents’ own reports of their progress, alongside weak oversight by managers, have led to some children’s cases being closed prematurely. These children are frequently referred again when their circumstances deteriorate.

 Most children have assessments and plans in place, but the quality of these is inconsistent. Some plans are ineffective. They do not demonstrate a full understanding of risks to children or their unique individual needs, and are not responsive to changes in circumstances.

 Over-optimism about the effectiveness of contracts of expectation and written agreements has led to an over-reliance on their use. For some children, particularly those living with parents on child protection plans or under the placement with parents’ regulations, such agreements have been ineffective in ensuring that parents or other family members comply with expectations to keep them safe. 

 Arrangements to meet the needs of unaccompanied asylum seekers when they first arrive are insufficient to ensure that their needs are met.


Bucks County Council loses over £5 million on company it set up but fails to tell residents

4 January 2018   

Just before Christmas, Bucks County Council sent the final accounts of Bucks Care Ltd to Companies House.  BCC will now close the company down.  Bucks Care Ltd is the company BCC set up in 2013 to carry out some of its adult social care functions including providing residential respite to vulnerable adults at Seeleys House.  

BCC hasn’t put out a statement.   It has failed to tell residents how much money BCC has lost in setting up the company and contracting out the work.

It’s not easy to work out how much money BCC has lost as there are two companies involved – one is the holding company for the other.  However, our conservative estimate is that BCC, as the sole shareholder of Bucks Care Ltd, has lost over 5 million.    

Just think what BCC could have done with this money.  BCC is closing Seeleys House at the end of 2018.  It is the only residential respite centre for vulnerable adults in Bucks.  There are no plans to replace it.  BCC could have spent the £5 million on a modern, purpose-built replacement.  

BCC could have spent the £5 million on children’s services instead of cutting the budget by £3.3 million and closing down all the children’s centres.    

Instead this is taxpayers' money down the drain. 

BCC has a habit of doing things just before Christmas when it doesn’t want residents to know what is going on.    

It was just before last Christmas when BCC decided to bring the services back in-house.  There was no statement or explanation from BCC until the Labour Party (and UKIP) and the press started asking questions.  Eventually we found out that the Care Quality Commission had assessed the residential respite services as inadequate; incidents at Seeleys House had been reported to the police; and allegations of institutional abuse at Seeleys House had been substantiated by an official investigation.   

So here we are again.  The accounts were sent to Companies House just before Christmas.  But there was no statement.  No explanation.  No accountability.  No-one accepting responsibility and resigning from their cabinet post. 

Ultimately of course it is for the Leader of the Council, Councillor Tett, to accept responsibility.  But he assumes the Conservatives will get a majority whatever they do.  So don’t hold your breath for an explanation of why BCC has lost over £5 million or who was responsible.   

I’ll give BCC Councillors the opportunity as normal to correct my figures and present their own.  Here they are:

Total operating loss is £3.5 million (or £2.7 million depending on which figure you take for 2015/6). 

In addition, Bucks Care Ltd has outstanding liabilities of £1.8 million.  

To put it another way, Bucks Care Ltd has been a financial disaster and another example of BCC’s financial incompetence.


Just hope you never grow old and need a care home in Bucks

25 November 2017

So the budget’s over and there’s no money for – well just about everything really except Brexit.  Certainly nothing for social services. Nothing for adult social services where the Local Government Association estimates a national funding gap of nearly £6 billion by 2020. 

The LGA also estimates that at least an extra £1.3 billion is needed immediately, and then every year, to stabilise the “fragile” provider market for adult social care.  

I mention this because one of Bucks County Councils’ Select Committee is being given a presentation by one of its officials on Tuesday about care homes.

In the middle of the presentation, there is a list of challenges.  One of them is

“Ongoing debate nationally regarding substantive funding for social care and sustainability of independent sector provider market”. 

Translated this means “Unless there is a lot more money for social care, private sector companies providing the care are not going to make a profit and will walk away or even go bust.    

This is, you might think, pretty serious.  However, there’s no explanation of what this means for Bucks. 

So here’s some questions the Select Committee might like to ask the official:-

-          Are there a significant number of private sector care homes in Bucks at risk of closing down because they can’t make a profit or even at risk of going bust?

-          If so, why?

-          If so, how many care homes are at risk and how many residents are in these care homes?

-          Does BCC own and manage any care homes?

-          What contingency plans has BCC got for ensuring residents will continue to get care if and when private sector provision of care collapses?

-          Can the Select Committee have a copy of the risk assessment?

The presentation also includes some interesting information about the quality of care in care homes in Bucks.

31% of care homes in Bucks require improvement or are inadequate.  This is considerably worse than the national average.   (BCC reckon the figure is 26% but that still means 35 care homes need to improve).      

65% of older people in care homes pay for themselves and 5% are paid for by the NHS.  So presumably about 30% of people in care homes are paid for by BCC (or other councils).

So here’s some more questions for the Select Committee to ask:-  

-          How many residents are in care homes in Bucks which require improvement or are inadequate?

-          How many of these residents are funded by BCC?

-          Are residents funded by BCC disproportionately in care homes which do not provide good quality care?

And wouldn’t it make sense, as more and more of us are living longer and needing good quality care, for BCC to invest in care homes for vulnerable people rather than investing £80 million in commercial properties?   Aren’t councils there to look after vulnerable residents rather than pretending to be hedge fund managers?


Mr Lidington apparently all in favour of denying compensation to victims of child sexual exploitation

21 September 2017

I blogged on 20 July (below) about some victims of child sexual abuse being denied compensation on the grounds that they had “given consent” to the abuse – even though the legal age of consent to any form of sexual activity is 16.   

The Ministry of Justice is ultimately responsible for the guidance which allows the children to be denied this compensation and David Lidington, Aylesbury’s MP, is also Secretary of State for Justice.  He declined to respond when the story broke on Channel 4 news.

One of the readers of that blog wrote to Mr Lidington the same day asking for an explanation.   7 weeks later, an official responded saying:

Child sexual abuse is abhorrent, and it is right that victims can apply for taxpayer-funded compensation awards through the Scheme. The Justice Secretary is fully aware of the concerns raised about how rules of the Scheme work in relation to cases of child sexual abuse, as are the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) that administers the Scheme and the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

The CICA has internal guidelines to assist decision-makers in applying the Scheme and its rules in individual cases. The guidelines are intended to make sure that controlling and abusive behaviour is taken into account when handling compensation applications for child sexual abuse, and CICA is urgently reviewing them to ensure they are robust enough to deal with cases where grooming may be a factor.”

According to the Guardian, Mr Lidington also told MPs that the rules would be changed so that victims of child-grooming rings would no longer be refused compensation.

However, it looks like Mr Lidington has broken his promise to MPs.    Because the revised guidelines state that the victims of child sexual abuse can still be disqualified on the grounds that “consent ‘in fact’ is different from consent ‘in law’”.    Even in cases of children, the guidelines say that “where the sexual activity is truly of the applicant’s free will, no crime of violence will have occurred.”

Sarah Champion, Rotherham’s MP, has called the guidelines “despicable” and has called on Mr Lidington to intervene. 

However, I’m left wondering.  The official response says Mr Lidington was “fully aware of the concerns” so surely he would already have seen and approved the revised guidelines. 

So that means he is all in favour of children being denied compensation after they are groomed and repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted by groups of men.  He is all in favour of children being denied compensation even after they are brave enough to help the police put the men who sexually exploited them sent to prison.  And are brave enough to help to protect other children from harm.  


The guidelines are despicable but so too is Mr Lidington’s failure to change them.


BBC 3 counties radio covers scandal of Seeleys House

6 September 2017

The main news item on the breakfast show on 3 counties radio yesterday was the scandal at Seeleys House, where vulnerable adults were subjected to institutional abuse.   Seeleys House was run by Bucks Care, a company set up, owned and funded by Bucks County Council. 

A link to the programme is below; the introduction for the item is at 7 minutes, I am interviewed at I hour 6 minutes and Sheila Norris, a Director at Bucks County Council, is interviewed at 2 hours 15 minutes.

I would only add the following.

A Council official represented Bucks County Council, not a Councillor.  None of the Conservative Councillors responsible for this scandal choose to be held to account.

Ms Norris admitted that there had been institutional abuse at Seeleys House last year and that the standard of care at Seeleys House still requires improvement.  She couldn’t do otherwise in the light of the evidence.  Despite this, there was no apology to the users of Seeleys House nor to their families.   All Ms Norris could say, on BCC’s behalf, was “it is regrettable”.    

When pushed on the debt incurred by Bucks Care which BCC had to take over, Ms Norris said she did “not recognise” the figures I was quoting i.e. an overall debt up to March 2016 of £2.8 million.  She said the setting up of Bucks Care had “overall not been a huge cost to the Council”.    I don’t know what BCC would regard as a huge cost – but £2.8 million would go some way to improving the care provided to the users of Seeleys House.

I took my figures from accounts provided by BCC and submitted by them to Companies House for the years ending 2015/6 and 2014/5.  I put my figures to BCC last month (with a link to the blog below of 14 August) and asked them to let me know if they were inaccurate.  I had no response.   I will let Ms Norris know the accounts are available and give her a link to my blog.

Ms Norris said she knew nothing about a cover-up by BCC nor about misleading information provided by BCC.  I will let her have a link to my blogs below of 25 August and 16 March.

I like to be helpful.


Cover-up of Institutional Abuse at Bucks Care Ltd

25 August 2017

Last Wednesday, the Bucks Herald wrote about a report on institutional abuse at Seeleys House, which provides residential respite for vulnerable adults.  Seeleys House was run by Bucks Care Ltd, a company set up, funded and wholly owned by Bucks County Council (see blogs below).    

This blog is not about the abuse itself – I will return to this later.   It is about the cover-up of the abuse, and about the lack of transparency and independence in investigating the allegations.    

In November 2016, a Large Scale Enquiry was set up by what the report calls “the LSE”.  I have no idea who “the LSE” is but it is chaired by the Head of Safeguarding in BCC.  The LSE monitored the Enquiry and BCC’s Head of Service wrote its report.  

So you have to ask why an Enquiry into allegations of abuse in a company funded and owned by BCC was carried out under the auspices of BCC.   Why wasn’t someone independent of BCC brought in?

In March, the LSE considered the report of the Enquiry and decided it was “satisfied that there is not a further need for an LSE at this current time”.   This is BCC saying BCC was making good progress in tackling the institutional abuse at a BCC centre.  Well it would say that, wouldn’t it?

Throughout this time there was not one word publicly about the allegations of abuse, the Enquiry or its conclusion that the allegations of abuse were substantiated.  Not one word to the public, the media, the users of Seeleys House or their families, or to the Council – although individual Councillors must of course have known about it.   

Even when Councillor Stuchbury, then a Labour County Councillor, asked a series of questions to Councillor Appleyard, the Cabinet Councillor responsible, he was told nothing about the Large Scale Enquiry. 

In June, the report went to the Bucks Safeguarding Adult Board (BSAB).  The Board decided it “did not meet the Board’s expectation or requirement for a detailed evidence based report”.  The Board requested a further report as a matter of urgency to include the Improvement Plan and to “provide specific actions/evidence against which progress has been achieved”. 

It was at this point I learnt of the existence of this report and I asked BCC for a copy.    

In July, BCC refused to provide the report.  Four reasons were given for that refusal:

1.     “An overriding public interest in an independent body (BSAB) not being distracted from their consideration of the information by prior public publication/comment.” 

Why, you may ask, has BCC so little confidence in the robustness and objectivity of the Board?   Isn’t this what democracy is all about?    Isn’t open government about informing the public what is going on and giving them the opportunity to comment?

2.     The information would be made available in the near future.  

This is not true; BCC had no plans to publish this report and nor did BSAB. 

3.     The information that went to the BSAB in June would form part of the information that would go to the Board in August and be published then. 


Well this is one way to get round the Freedom of Information Act – but not a very good one.

4. The right under FoI is to information not documents.

Just think about this one.  If the whole point of getting a document is to find out what’s in it, how can you specify the information you need?  Luckily the law allows the public to ask for documents as well as specific information.

This month, I appealed, successfully, under BCC’s internal procedures against the decision not to release the report.  I am happy to send a copy to anyone who asks. 

It was obvious why BCC did not want to release the report.  It substantiates the allegations of institutional abuse at Seeleys House and gives the lie to information previously provided by Councillor Appleyard.      

Meanwhile the Board of BSAB considered the further report it requested.  It is far from the “detailed evidence based report” requested by the BSAB.  It is shorter, considerably less detailed than the report that went to the Board in June and provides no improvement plans.

Moreover, it is a sanitised account - no reference for example to the police investigations at Seeleys House.     

This sanitised version is on the BSAB website – although it takes some finding.  It is also, according to BCC, on BCC’s website - although I can’t find it there.   

That’s how BCC covered up a scandal of institutional abuse.   And it will simply ignore the issue and hope it goes away.    But who knows what else BCC is covering up?     


Bucks Care accounts shine a light on BCC’s financial incompetence

14 August 2017

I’ve blogged a number of times about the inadequate services for residential respite provided at Seeleys House for vulnerable adults (see blogs below).  Those services were provided by Bucks Care Ltd, a company set up and wholly owned by Bucks County Council.

The services were assessed as inadequate in November 2016 by the Care Quality Commission and were brought back in house by BCC in December 2016.  BCC then applied for the company to be struck off.

BCC has never issued a statement about Bucks Care so residents have never been told what went wrong or why, nor how much it has cost the taxpayer.   

So I am going to have a go.  I think it important for two reasons. 

First, because vulnerable adults are still not getting the residential respite they are entitled to and plans for their future care are very uncertain.   The scandal continues.

Second, because this scandal illustrates the way in which BCC fulfills its responsibilities – with a lack of compassion and understanding, with a lack of financial competence and professionalism, and with a lack of openness.

This blog is about the money wasted in setting up Bucks Care and contracting out services.  

It’s about the £2.8 million (so far) of financial liabilities from Bucks Care which have to be covered by BCC.   It is important to remember this when BCC says it has no money for providing services to vulnerable people in future.  This £2.8 million could have been spent on providing their care.

It’s also about BCC’s sheer financial incompetence in privatising this service.  To begin with, it couldn’t even get the 2015/16 accounts for Bucks Care to Companies House on time; they were 9 months late.  Then HMRC objected, successfully, to the company being struck off “due to outstanding tax matters”.

Doesn’t engender confidence does it?

It gets worse.  It’s clear that Bucks Care wasn’t doing very well in 2014/15.  By December 2015, BCC had to provide £1 million of bailout money.  So it wasn’t a case of Bucks Care suddenly going belly up – it had been failing financially since it was set up and failing badly since 2015.  And BCC knew this.

So you might think there would have been some rigorous oversight of Bucks Care by BCC. 

However, all it seems to have done is cut the managing director’s salary – from £140,000 to £123,000.  Mind you, £123,000 still seems a lot.  For example, the BCC director responsible for all of adult social care gets a maximum of £105,000. 

And of course £123,000 is way too much for someone presiding over such a financial and contractual disaster.   One of the reasons Bucks Care wasn’t doing so well is because it sub-contracted a substantial chunk of its £8 million contract from BCC and didn’t get a good deal.

There seems no other sign of BCC monitoring Bucks Care’s money.  Indeed we know that Bucks Care was allowed to opt out of the County Council’s finance and human resources business system.  Instead it purchased an alternative financial system which “resulted in reduced visibility of trading performance”.

You can guess what happened.   

In February 2016 the Finance Director of Bucks Care left, followed by the Managing Director in June 2016.  In October 2016, BCC’s Internal Audit was commissioned to carry out an internal audit of the financial systems and controls in place within Bucks Care.  By this time, all it could do was report “limited assurance in all areas” or, as most people would call it, a financial mess.

The outcome is that, up to March 2016, the combined operating loss of the companies was over £1.6 million and the combined financial liabilities were £2.8 million.   

The accounts for 2016/17 are due this September.   I understand the auditors are still working on them.    We will then find out the full financial costs of setting up these companies.

BCC might even issue a statement.  But judging from its past record, it won’t bother telling the residents anything.


Did you know Bucks County Council is reviewing all the care packages of vulnerable adults?  No – me neither

29 July 2017

The things that Bucks County Council doesn’t tell its residents are legion.  BCC can (and does) spend hours debating concepts like transformation projects (where no-one knows what transformation BCC is meant to be undergoing or why).  It puts out dozens of press releases congratulating itself – for example on an award for phasing out postal waste permits (whatever they are). 

However, try to find out about a review of all adult care packages in Bucks and there is nothing, but nothing, to be found on BCC’s website.   

And yet it was mentioned as a priority by Councillor Hazell, the Cabinet member for Health and Wellbeing, at a committee meeting last week.  BCC is setting up a Board to make sure that all the adult care packages deliver what individuals need.

When Councillor Hazell was questioned, we found out that there are 6,500-7,000 people with care packages at any one time in Bucks and 12,000-13,000 people who will have a care package during a given year.   Councillor Hazell said it would be a huge task to reassess all these packages. 

Indeed it will.  I don’t know how long the review will take or who is on the Board but, at 12,000 care packages a year, BCC needs to get through 240 a week to complete the task in a year.   That’s about 7 an hour.    Let’s say it takes two hours on average to review a care plan.  This is not excessive given that the individual, relatives and carers will have to be consulted.    That’s 14 staff full-time with no breaks working for a year to carry out the reassessments.   

This would be daunting enough but the idea is not only to ensure needs are met but also to consider new and innovatory ways of meeting those needs.     I don’t know how long it would take to discuss new and innovatory ideas with 12,000 people on an individual basis, but it could double the time of the re-assessment.  So it could take a team of 30 people or so working flat out to complete the re-assessments in a year.

Is my arithmetic wrong? Or is BCC totally and completely unrealistic?  I will ask.  

And will BCC be involving people who have care packages in the review?  Well, Councillor Hazell was a bit fuzzy on that.   People will be consulted on their own packages but it was very unclear whether they would be consulted as a group about the review or even have a representative on the Board.  I think it boiled down to the possibility of a “more strategic conversation with representatives”.  

According to Councillor Hazell, this is not a cost cutting exercise; the revised care packages would be based on individuals’ needs not budget reductions. 

However, this was not quite the way BCC’s Executive Director for Communities, Health & Adult Social Care explained things.  She pointed out that, under the Care Act, care packages did need to set out an individual’s needs but in doing this Councils could, and should, take account of the overall resources available.

So now we know that BCC are carrying out a massive review affecting at least 12,000 vulnerable adults and probably many times this number of relatives and carers.   And not a word to residents. 

And you know, and I know, that the purpose of the review is to make cuts.    


Abused children are apparently not a priority for David Lidington

20 July 2017

I have been trying to find out what David Lidington, MP for Aylesbury, believes in for some months now with little success (see my blogs under General Election).  But now we have an issue which might throw some light on his beliefs.

Mr. Lidington is the Secretary of State for Justice, responsible for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority and for the guidance given to the Authority on whether to provide state compensation to the victims of child sexual abuse.  

A few days ago, Channel 4 exposed the fact that some victims of child sexual abuse were being denied compensation by the Authority on the grounds that they had “given consent” to the abuse – even though the legal age of consent to any form of sexual activity is 16.    

The link to the item is below.

Ministers, including David Lidington, were apparently unavailable to go on the Channel 4 programme but gave Channel 4 a statement from the Authority.  The statement said the guidance, which was prepared in 2012, was being urgently reviewed. 

Meanwhile, victims of child abuse will continue to give evidence against their abusers and help send them to prison.  They can then be refused compensation because they “gave consent” to the abuse, even though they legally couldn’t have given consent.  In some cases they are then asked by the police to help with further prosecutions. 

It is just sickening.

Sarah Champion, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Women and Equality has written to the Ministry.  However, there is nothing on the Ministry’s website on the issue and apparently no response yet from David Lidington.

So presumably abused children are not one of his priorities.


David Lidington asked to step down as Vice – President of Buckinghamshire Mind

6 June 2017

Did you know David Lidington was asked to step down as Vice – President of Buckinghamshire Mind last year because of his misguided and derogatory actions towards ill and disabled people?   No?  Well neither did I - so I thought I would give it some publicity.

One of the people who read my blog on “Who is David Lidington?” (see my General Election page) suggested I look at a press release put out by Buckinghamshire Mind as this provided more information about his beliefs.  

The press release was issued in June 2016 and says the Board of Buckinghamshire Mind asked Mr Lidington to step down as Honorary Vice – President of Buckinghamshire Mind with immediate effect.  This was in the light of him backing cuts to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), the main out-of-work benefit for ill and disabled people.

The press release goes on to say “Reducing the amount provided by nearly £30 a week will make people’s lives even more difficult and will do nothing to help them return to work, especially given that there is a relationship between financial difficulties and experience of mental health problems.

“Implying that ill and disabled people will be motivated into work if their benefits are cut is misguided as it fails to take into account the many reasons someone with a mental health problem might struggle to find or stay in employment. It’s also derogatory, because it’s based on the assumption that people with mental health problems are deliberately failing to find work because they prefer to stay on benefits, when actually the vast majority have a very high ‘want to work’ rate.”

Astonishingly I couldn’t find any reference to this request for Mr Lidington to step down in the press so presumably it was not reported.  One might have thought it very newsworthy.  

I would like to say how much I support the actions of Buckinghamshire Mind in speaking out about the impact of the cuts on benefits and making clear their opposition to the way in which a local MP voted.  

Link to the press release is


If you care about people with disabilities in Bucks, why would you vote anything but Labour?

19 May 2017

People with disabilities often can’t or don’t vote.  It is therefore up to the rest of us – friends or relatives, or simply those who care, to think about them when we vote.

There used to be lobby groups in Bucks for people with disabilities who would speak out publicly and politically about the problems of people with disabilities and would fight to get the problems sorted.  But they seem to have disappeared.   

There are still lots of charities in Bucks for people with disabilities but they are now in the business (and I use those words advisedly) of providing information and support.  They have contracts to do the work previously done by the public service and are therefore dependent on funding from Bucks County Council and other public authorities.  So they don’t lobby any more.

In fact, there seems to be only one Bucks charity for people with disabilities independent of public sector core funding - Bucks Disability Service.  It says “it will not hesitate to act and speak out in defence of disabled people in Buckinghamshire”. 

However, all it says on its website is that the Conservative cuts “are having an impact, often adverse, on disabled people in Bucks.  We believe that many of them will lose financially, and that if they are unable to make up the lost income, there may well be knock-on effects on their ability to live independently, and for other services they use, such as the NHS and social care.”   

So you have to look elsewhere to find out what has happened to people with disabilities under this Government:

-          It has closed Remploy which provided employment to people with disabilities,

-          It scrapped the Independent Living Fund,

-          It cut payments for the disabled Access To Work scheme,

-          It cut the Employment and Support Allowance by £30/week,

-          It presided over a 5-fold increase in sanctions against people on disability benefits,

-           It has brought in a fitness-to-work system which is a scandal and caused untold misery to people with disabilities,

-          It imposed the bedroom tax and

-          It is moving disabled people to Personal Independence Allowance while making the eligibility tougher.  Over half a million people will lose out on this change alone.

I think the treatment the Conservative Government has handed out over the past 7 years to people with disabilities is immoral.   No civilized society should allow its most vulnerable people to be treated in this way, with many left destitute and isolated.

As far as I could see, all the Bucks Conservative MPs have voted for the legislation which underpins this immoral treatment to people with disabilities. 

There is nothing to stop Bucks charities speaking out during the election.  Despite the 2014 Lobbying Act which regulates their political activities, they retain the fundamental right to speak out on issues that further their charitable purposes.  So where are the Bucks charities for people with disabilities?

If you vote for the Conservatives, what more will happen to people with disabilities?  According to its manifesto, “it will deliver a government unafraid to confront the burning injustices of …the stigma of disability discrimination.”… We will build on the proud Conservative record of supporting those with disabilities…. We will get 1 million more people with disabilities into employment over the next ten years….”

In other words, more of the same.

If you vote Labour, people with disabilities will get, according to its manifesto, the restoration of financial and other support.  A Labour Government will repeal the cuts in social security support to people with disabilities through a new Social Security Bill in the first year in office, including:  

-           Increasing Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) by £30 per week

-          Increasing Carer’s Allowance by £11 to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance

-          Implementing the court decision on Personal Independence Payment (PIP) so that there is real parity of esteem between those with physical and mental-health conditions

-          Scrapping the Work Capability and Personal Independence Payment assessments and replace them with a personalised, holistic assessment process that provides each individual with a tailored plan, building on their strengths and addressing barriers. It will end the privatisation of assessments

-          Ending the pointless stress of repeated reassessments for people with severe long-term conditions.

-          Commissioning a report into expanding the Access to Work programme.

It will change the culture of the social security system from one that demonises people not in work to one that is supportive and enabling.

If you care about the way society supports people with disabilities, why would you vote anything but Labour?


Child sexual exploitation in Bucks

7 April 2017

The Bucks Safeguarding Children’s Board published a serious case review today (7 April) into child sexual exploitation in Bucks from 1998 – 2016.  The review is being reported in the media and, as you might expect, its findings are damning; after all, BCC’s Children’s Services were assessed by OFSTED as inadequate in 2014, BCC’s then Chief Executive describing its Children’s Services as one of the seven worst in the country.  The Safeguarding Children’s Board was also assessed as inadequate.   

The review sets out what went wrong, how things have improved and areas where there is still concern.  It makes 14 recommendations.  

The review is not good news for BCC when its Leader, Martin Tett, is attempting to convince voters that BCC has made significant progress with “the improvement journey” of Children’s Services – and is criticising his Tory district colleagues publicly for putting out “misleading information” on Children’s Services and undermining this work. 

Perhaps Councillor Tett might like to read this review and acknowledge that BCC are still failing to protect children from sexual exploitation.   It would be even better if he apologised for failing children in Bucks.

As the review is being reported in the media, I am only going to comment on two issues. 

The first is the timing of publication.  The report was completed in September 2016 but was only published today over 6 months later.  The whole point of a serious case review is to learn lessons and Labour County Councillor, Robin Stuchbury has been pressing for publication for months (see   Without his perseverance, it is doubtful whether the review would have been published at all.  Even so, publication has been delayed until the pre-election period when Tory BCC Councillors cannot be questioned and held to account.  They’re dodging all responsibility.

To make matters worse, even though the review was embargoed for today, the Safeguarding Board, BCC officials and the police held a press conference yesterday.  This meant those responsible for failing our children had the opportunity to put their case to the media without any challenge from the public or political opposition parties - and indeed before anyone else could even read the report.   BCC and the Board really don’t like to be questioned, do they?

The second issue is about funding.  The review points out the difficulty of the funding arrangements for Barnados which provides support for children in Bucks.  Apart from that, not a word about money until right at the end when the review concludes

   … concerns remain about a number of areas, principally the funding of ongoing services that support children and young people at risk of sexual exploitation. This includes support for their families, as well as young people with learning disabilities and mental health difficulties…..

The challenge for the future centres around leadership, continued commitment to multiagency working and joint funding, particularly in a climate of austerity and cutbacks where agencies might be inclined to protect their own spheres of influence and revert to working in silos” 

In other words, the Tory cuts mean there is not enough funding to BCC, the police, the schools, the NHS and charities to protect our children from sexual exploitation.  

Posted by Linda Derrick.  Promoted by Martin Abel on behalf of Linda Derrick at 5 Spencer Road, Aylesbury HP21 7LR      


Over half the children looked after by Bucks County Council are sent out of county

 26 March 2017

In September last year, Bucks County Council’s Select Committee on Children’s Social Care considered a report on children who are looked after by Children’s Social Services.  The children are looked after by BCC perhaps because the children’s parents are ill, or the children have been neglected or abused, or because the parents can’t cope.

The report showed that there has been an increase in children who are looked after by BCC.  Since 2009 the number has increased from 330 to 435 children, an increase of 32%.  Nationally the increase has been 14%.   The report did not explain why there has been such a large increase in Bucks. 

BCC’s main concern was that less than half (42%) of the children looked after by BCC are placed within the county’s borders.  This compares unfavourably with other counties in the South East who place 65% of their children within their counties.  BCC place only 54% of its children within 20 miles of where they live compared to other counties in the South East who place 77% within 20 miles.

Some children need to be moved away from their home area but for others it is not necessary and can have a damaging impact.   They lose contact with their friends and families, they have to change schools and do less well than their peer group, and they have less access to specialist services in Bucks. 

It also costs BCC more money in buying the residential care (approximately 60% are placed in privately owned provision) and on longer travel times for staff visiting the children and attending meetings and reviews. 

The report said a number of actions were to be taken to ensure children were placed near to their homes, including increasing foster care.  

A recent meeting again raised the problems of finding suitable placements for children - this time for children who were at risk of sexual exploitation and had to be taken into care.   

The responsible Cabinet Member, Councillor Hazell, told the Select Committee in September that a business case was being developed for a new residential facility to be built in Bucks.  I haven’t heard anything about this business case since so I will ask.


Another BCC financial failure; Bucks Care Ltd to be struck off

 16 March 2017

Bucks Care Ltd (see blogs below) was set up and wholly owned by Bucks County Council.  It had an £8 million contract with BCC to provide social care, including residential respite at Seeleys House.   The services were assessed as inadequate last year by the Care Quality Commission and the services have been brought back in house by BCC.  BCC has had to cover something like £2.4 million of debt incurred by Bucks Care.


Robin Stuchbury, Labour’s County Councillor has asked BCC a series of questions about Bucks Care and at last got some answers.  A shortened version is below and we’ve provided translations.    It’s a long blog but a lot of people have been waiting for these answers.


There is still no sign that Mike Appleyard, the cabinet member responsible, is thinking of resigning.  


Question 1:  When will BCC make a statement explaining what happened at Bucks Care Ltd that led to the services being assessed as inadequate and being brought back in-house with a substantial deficit for BCC to cover? 

BCC Answer: We have no plans to issue any further statements on this subject.

 Translation:  We have no intention of telling residents how this scandal happened and who was responsible.   We’ve been asked by BCC’s scrutiny committee to ensure we learn the lessons from our experience of setting up these sorts of companies before setting up any more.   But we think we will ignore that and go ahead with privatising the libraries anyway - but after the election.   




Question 2: Can I have a copy of the latest accounts?  The accounts up to March 2016 were due with Companies House in December. 

 Answer:  The 2015/16 accounts are with the auditors and likely to be signed off early next month.  In normal circumstances these would have been published before the end of December 2016. However, despite having submitted them on time, due to the insourcing of Buckinghamshire Care Limited and related issues the auditors were unable to sign them off before the end of December.   

 Translation:  The auditors are taking a long time to sign off the accounts and we are a bit worried about that.  But perhaps this is no bad thing as we may be able to delay publication until after the election.   

We just hope no-one has spotted that the Registrar of Companies gave notice on 14 March that the company will be struck off the register and dissolved in 2 months.  




Question 3: Is it true that the NHS has withdrawn continuing healthcare funding for users of Seeleys House?    If so, can you tell me why?

 Answer:  This is not true.

 Translation: None needed.  If anyone has had their continuing healthcare funding withdrawn, they can see it just did not happen.  




Question 4:  Is it true that users of Seeleys House have been offered alternative respite outside Bucks?  If so, where and why?

 Answer: Where respite is indicated all options would normally be explored – there is no ‘one size fits all’ and some clients may prefer to go out of county and view respite as an opportunity for a short-break ‘holiday’ away from daily routine. 

Translation:  Of course they have gone out of county as we haven’t got anywhere else.  Let’s pretend that clients enjoy having a holiday in Reading or Milton Keynes and ignore the fact that this client group needs routine and gets very upset with changes.  




Question 5: People are seeking an assurance that services at Seeleys House will be brought up to a good standard?  If so, when do you think that will be?

Answer:  The intention is to bring Seeley’s House up to a good standard by mid-April 2017.

Translation:  We won’t give an assurance – let’s palm them off with some intentions.




Queston 6:  Can I have an assurance that BCC will continue to offer at least as many beds as now for the group of people who need residential respite?

 Answer:  There are no plans to reduce actual bed numbers (currently 12) at Seeley’s House Respite Unit. 

Translation:  Don’t mention that Seeleys House is closing and the real answer is no.




Question 7:  When will BCC make a statement about the future of Seeleys House?

Answer:  BCC is committed to delivering respite care from Seeleys House until its replacement service is developed. Families of users have been heavily engaged in discussions about a replacement facility and the Council remains committed to this plan and the ongoing engagement of families.

 Translation: Not going to tell you and certainly not before the election.


Damning report on adult social care.  When is Councillor Appleyard going to resign?

 20 January 2017

Three days ago (17 Jan), the Care Quality Commission published its report on the care provided at Seeleys House by Bucks Care Ltd, a company set up and wholly owned by Bucks County Council and funded by an £8 million contract from BCC  (see blog below for background).


The Care Quality Commission rated the care provided as inadequate – the worst rating. 


Its report is damning.  Amongst other things, vulnerable people at Seeleys House were at risk from an unsafe environment, including from fire and electricity.  People were at risk from abuse.  They were not treated with dignity and respect.  Staff did not make sure medicine was taken as prescribed.  There were concerns about staffing levels.  There were breaches of the law.


And the company had not responded to a warning given at a previous visit in April.


How did BCC let this happen?  Did BCC know what was happening but did nothing about it?    In which case, who knew and why no action?


Or did BCC not know what was happening?  In which case, who was meant to monitor the contract and the performance of Bucks Care and why did they not find out what was happening?


All we know from BCC about the collapse of Bucks Care Ltd is a Cabinet paper buried on BCC’s website before Christmas.


When the news broke, the Councillor responsible for adult social care, Councillor Appleyard, was apparently not available.   One of his colleagues stood in for him but said very little about the reasons for the collapse. 


The Leader of BCC, Councillor Tett was pressed for answers a week ago by Councillor Stuchbury, a Labour Councillor and Councillor Adams, a UKIP Councillor.  They were told little except to attend a confidential briefing the next week.


That briefing took place but still no statement from Councillor Appleyard. 


We need to know the financial position of Bucks Care.  We understand it was over £2million in debt and there will be costs over and above that in bringing the work back to BCC.


We need to know who is responsible for this failure.


We need to know the plans for bringing the service back in-house, and what is going to happen to Seeley’s House.


And we need to know when Councillor Appleyard is going to resign.



Bucks Children’s Services – BCC just can’t stop spinning

13 January 2017

On 10 January, Ofsted published the findings of its latest monitoring visit to Bucks County Council’s Children’s Services.

Its report says “the local authority is making steady progress to improve services for children in some areas. The local authority has taken action to strengthen practice in respect of children at risk of sexual exploitation and children who go missing, but the pace of improvement in these areas is not meeting expectations”.

Its findings are mixed.  As a rough guide, 7 of the findings were critical and 6 were complimentary.   

But BCC just can’t stop congratulating itself. 

The headline of BCC’s press release is “Children’s Services making ‘steady progress’ says Ofsted”   No mention that the steady progress is “in some areas”.

The three words are omitted again in the first paragraph of the press release.  It goes on to say that BCC “is strengthening practice” but omits to say that the pace of improvement is not meeting expectations.   

Perhaps BCC needs reminding that it is now 3 years since its then Head of Children’s Services wrote to the Chief Executive of BCC to warn him starkly and in some detail that BCC was failing the children it should have been protecting and to tell him that the main reason for the failure was lack of resources.   

Far from increasing the budget, BCC actually cut the budget of Children’s Service by £1 million. 

Ofsted arrived in June 2014 and assessed Children’s Services as inadequate – the worst rating. It was a scathing report.

BCC went into denial and cover- up saying it had produced a robust recovery plan for the Secretary of State, Nicky Morgan.  However, she took just 7 days to reject BCC’s plan and put in her own advisor, a company called Red Quadrant.

Red Quadrant produced its own scathing report in January 2015 slating BCC for its slowness in getting its Children’s Services up to an adequate standard and criticising BCC for its failure “at the highest corporate level” to own and drive through the necessary changes.  

Red Quadrant said progress was slow because key politicians cared more about the Council’s tarnished reputation than they did about safeguarding Bucks children.   

By now BCC had had to pump at least £8 million into Children’s Services, over 20% of its budget.  It also had to pay the cost of Red Quadrant’s services.     

2 years later, Children’s Services still needs improvement.   It is simply not good enough.


BCC to discuss social care scandal in secret - still no answers

10 January 2017

BCC has still to explain why it decided before Christmas to bring its adult social care services back in- house after contracting them out to Bucks Care Ltd, a company BCC set up in 2013.    

Two Councillors tried on Monday at BCC’s Cabinet meeting to find out more. 

One of those Councillors, Robin Stuchbury, who is a Labour Councillor, said he had no problem with the decision to bring the services back in-house but something had obviously gone wrong and it was not clear what that was.  Was it about finance or quality of services?  

Councillor Tett, the Leader of the Tory Group on BCC, gave no details but confirmed that officers had lost confidence in Bucks Care being able to deliver on both finance and quality.

Cllr Stuchbury suggested that the decision had not been taken over night so information should be available; it would be helpful to have some openness and clarity about the decision.

Cllr Tett gave no answer, merely saying there was a full members’ briefing next week. 

Members’ briefings are confidential.  So that doesn’t take us any further. 

The other Councillor to have a go at trying to find out more was Chris Adams, a UKIP Councillor.   He asked about the £2.4 million needed to write off Bucks Care’s debts and the additional on-going revenue costs.   He asked what impact this would have on BCC’s revenue position - was there something currently planned by BCC which could not now be afforded?

Cllr Tett said this was being looked at and was confident it could be handled.

Cllr Adams then asked about an extension which had been made to the Bucks Care’s contract with BCC.  When had that decision been made, who by and on what basis?   And when were concerns first raised with BCC, and how and when were those concerns raised with Councillors?

Cllr Tett said he could not answer.

Both he and the Chief Executive hoped as many Councillors as possible would attend the members briefing the next week.

So no joy there.

It is odd to see a Labour and a UKIP Councillor asking the same questions on a matter of public concern.  I would like to thank both of them and hope they keep asking until everyone knows what happened to this failing company.