On 27 August 2019, Ofsted published the findings of their inspection of our Children’s Services, carried out in July 2019. They graded the service 'inadequate' overall.

View the Ofsted report.

Since then, the service has worked hard to make improvements across all areas and has been supported in this by our Improvement Board, independently chaired by Rory Paterson.

Immediately after the July 2019 inspection, the Department for Education appointed a Commissioner, Eleanor Brazil, to identify improvements and oversee our improvement process, as well as review evidence that we have the capacity and capability to make those improvements.

The Commissioner has now submitted her final report to the Minister and has noted that improvements have been made across all areas and the Improvement Plan is appropriately ambitious. She recommended that there is no longer any need to consider an alternative delivery model as Medway have demonstrated that they now have the capacity and capability to deliver the changes needed. This recommendation has been accepted by the Minister who has issued an updated statutory direction to this effect.

Read the Minister's revised statutory direction, 29 January 2021.

Read news article Update on Medway’s Children’s Services: DfE direction revised, 29 January 2021.

Read the Commissioner’s report and recommendation 10 January 2020.

Lead member for Children’s Services

The portfolio holder for Children’s Services, Councillor Josie Iles, has commented on the Commissioner’s final report and recommendation.

Councillor Josie Iles said:

“We are very pleased that our DFE Commissioner, Eleanor Brazil, has submitted her final report to the Minister and has advised that there is no longer a need for a Commissioner in Medway, or to consider an alternative delivery model as Medway now has the capacity and capability to deliver the changes needed. This recommendation has been accepted by the DFE which is an important outcome and a demonstration of the progress made to improve children’s services by the Council. The DFE have now appointed an Improvement Adviser, Glady Rhodes White, whose role over the coming year is to support the service to continue to make sustainable improvements.

"We are grateful for the support and guidance we have received from our Commissioner and we were also pleased that Ofsted recognised the improvements we have made when they carried out their first Monitoring Visit in August.

"Our main focus now is ensuring sustainable improvements are made so Medway’s children in need of our help and protection receive the service they deserve. We are continuing to support the implementation of our improvement plan which will deliver positive changes in the lives of Medway’s vulnerable children and young people.

"We have already recruited additional social workers which have reduced caseloads and now have a permanent leadership team in post. The Improvement Board, which has an independent chair, meets monthly and is helping to ensure there is a clear plan to support change and that we remain clearly focussed on the recommendations set out by the Commissioner and Ofsted. Colleagues from our leading partner agencies, including education, health and police, are central to the effectiveness of the board and this is helping us all to work better together for Medway’s children. Internally, we have created a Staff Reference Group to give colleagues working in Children’s Services the opportunity to have their input to our improvement journey, and this group, which is also represented on the Improvement Board, is working well.  

"We are working closely with Essex County Council as our improvement partner to adopt best practice and strengthen the quality of our services.

"There is still much to be done but we are fully committed to transforming the service we provide for children and young people in need of our help and protection, as well as for children in our care. Our priority is to ensure all of Medway’s children thrive, remain healthy and learn well. We will continue to make sustainable improvements so the service we provide for Medway’s children continues to improve. What’s important now is that we continue to work at pace to implement these steps and make the necessary improvements, whilst minimising the disruption caused to children and families.

"We will continue to work with the DFE, our Improvement Adviser and our partner agencies over the coming months.”

Improvement Plan

The Improvement Plan is a working document which is regularly reviewed and updated, and overseen by the Improvement board.

The main aspects of our improvement we want to celebrate are:

  • additional investment has meant Medway now has one of the lowest caseloads nationally for social workers (13 across the whole service). Nationally most local councils aim for 20
  • we now have a stable workforce - a 20% vacancy rate down from 40% - and we're about to announce a new recruitment drive
  • our elected members are really stepping up and supporting the service for the benefit of Medway’s children
  • numbers of children in our care are stabilising - currently 444, down from 470
  • children subject to child protection plans are also coming down – now 168 down from 475 in April 2020. This means that social workers have more time to work with families, so they get the correct support for their children
  • our partners are working with us and have agreed a new safeguarding threshold document which helps everyone to understand their role in supporting Medway’s families
  • schools have been first class in supporting children during the pandemic. Through their work as a key partner agency, children have been safeguarded.

Our priorities

Our priorities for the coming year are:

  • we aim to consolidate and build on our practice improvements
  • we need more experienced social workers to work in Medway – it’s an up-and-coming place to work given our smaller caseloads and excellent support
  • we would like to recruit more foster carers to look after those children who cannot stay with their family.

Latest update on improvements to Children's Services: Friday 17 June 2022

Medway's Children’s Services has now made ‘significant progress’ in the support and care provided to older children and care leavers.

The latest Ofsted monitoring visit, which was held on 11 and 12 May 2022, recognised that senior leaders continue to ‘focus purposefully’ on Medway’s improvement journey and remain determined to create ‘sustainable improved services’ for care leavers and older children in care.

Ofsted inspectors spoke with young people in care and care leavers, personal advisers, social workers, managers and leaders. Young people spoke about the positive help and support they received from their personal advisers and social workers, with one care leaver stating: “She is the mum I never had”.

The latest feedback recognised our commitment to improving the experiences of young people who are or have been in the care system to give them the best chance of success in their adult life. Ofsted also found that Medway’s care leavers exceed the national average when it comes to accessing education, training and employment.

Ofsted recognised that social workers and personal advisers are committed to supporting young people and giving them an adult who they can trust and rely on. Personal advisers were also commended on the support they provide to young people in custody, helping towards a smooth transition when their prison sentence comes to an end.

Support continues past 16 years

A 16-plus service has also been formed and a care-leaver hub has opened, providing a safe place for young people to socialise and access support from the 16-plus workers.

The 16-plus service is working on plans to extend the opening hours beyond normal office hours so those in full-time education or training can also benefit from it.

Commitment to supporting children in care

In the latest feedback, Ofsted acknowledged our ‘well-organised’ corporate parenting board which ‘carefully listens’ to the views of the Children in Care Council.

The letter also refers to Medway’s delivery board which works to create greater opportunities and experiences for care leavers, and recognised the improved workforce stability as well as the increased capacity in the 16-plus service which has helped lower caseloads.

Areas for continued focus

Inspectors recognised that the leadership team have an accurate understanding of the work needed to drive improvements and continue to focus on the areas that need further development.

These include:

  • transition planning for older children in care for preparation of living more independently
  • the quality of written safety plans
  • the support to care leavers aged 21 plus
  • the effectiveness of pathway plans in identifying the impact of trauma on young people’s emotional needs
  • mental health support available for care leavers and older children
  • sufficiency and choice of accommodation for young people with the most complex needs.

Continuing to improve our Children's Services

Cllr Josie Iles, Medway’s Lead Member for Children’s Services, said:

“I am pleased the latest monitoring visit recognises the collective continued efforts to improve Medway’s Children’s Services, as well as the support provided to the children and young people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in the care system.

“Medway has come a long way on its improvement journey and I am pleased that the hard work of everyone involved with this journey has been recognised. I will continue to work closely with the senior management team to ensure great strides continue to be made to best support children in care and our care leavers. We will continue to do all we can to support Medway’s children in care and provide them and our care leavers with a more stable and promising future.

“We also recognise the huge impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on all young people, but particularly those in care, and we are working to provide additional support to ensure all of Medway’s children and young people have access to the right support. With our vision for Medway to be a completely child-friendly place, our improvement journey is just one part of everything we’re doing to provide better opportunities for our young people and help them reach their full potential.”