Medway Council’s Children’s Services has been rated Good by Ofsted.
In its report published today (Monday,11 September), Ofsted concluded that ‘children matter in Medway’ and for the first time in Medway’s history, the service has been judged as Good. The service has been on a significant improvement journey since being rated inadequate in 2019 with extensive commitment and measures put in place over the past four years. Following a final Ofsted inspection in July 2023, inspectors have concluded that the services provided for children and families in Medway have ‘substantially improved’ since the inspection in 2019.
The council’s Children’s Services was ranked Good in three of the four service areas investigated as part of the inspection:
- The experiences and progress of children in care: Good
- The experiences and progress of care leavers: Good
- The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families: Good
- The experiences and progress of children who need help and protection: Requires Improvement
Ofsted recognised that the quality of support provided to Medway’s most vulnerable children and families is a ‘clear priority’ for the council, with ‘significant investment and commitment by leaders’.
The inspectors found that corporate and political leaders have addressed the systemic weaknesses and there is now a strong, determined and cohesive stable leadership team.
Leaders have achieved significant progress, with a well-managed ‘front door’ and ‘early help service’, which ensures appropriate initial and timely responses to children’s needs.
There have been improvements for children in care and care leavers, who now receive good care and support, children’s needs are met and they make good progress.
Ofsted recognised that there have also been significant improvements with the impact of the Corporate Parenting Board, and that the ‘voice of children is heard loud and clear’ by all members of the board. The report states that there is also a real presence and understanding of the child’s voice in all corporate meetings and decision-making forums.
Ofsted also highlighted the council’s Child-Friendly Medway dedicated programme “which has included all parts of the council and community of Medway. This has raised the awareness of others and the profile of children in care and care-experienced young people.”
Inspectors also noted Medway Council’s ‘relentless’ approach to improvement which has led to this significant progress.
Although there have been challenges with recruitment and retaining staff, Medway Council has been persistent and creative in its approach. The council has improved its learning and development opportunities for social workers and has increased the number of social workers to reduce caseloads, which has given staff time to develop their practice and work more effectively.
Ofsted also recognised that the council has a clear and realistic understanding of the further improvements needed to make sure all children receive a consistently good, or better, service.
Whilst delighted with the outcome, the council recognises that there are still improvements to be made in areas of the service. The inspectors found that variability remains in the quality and impact of social work practice, specifically in the longer-term support provided to vulnerable adolescents, particularly those young people at risk of exploitation. As for local authorities across the country, there continue to be significant challenges regarding recruitment and retention of the workforce but council leaders will continue to focus on increasing the capacity and stability of the workforce, and improving the choice and availability of homes for children in our care.
Children absolutely matter in Medway
Leader of Medway Council, Cllr Vince Maple, said: “I am absolutely delighted that Medway’s Children’s Services have been recognised as Good by Ofsted today. Across the council as a whole, and with support from our partners, there has been a relentless focus on improving our services for children and young people over the past four years and ensuring that they all receive the care and support they need remains one of the new administration’s key priorities. We have been supported in this journey by our Improvement Board and the Department for Education.
“We recognise that there is still more to be done to achieve a consistently good service for all our children and families and we are committed to continuing to build on the progress we have made.
“I would like to thank all our Children’s Services Staff for their hard work, our fantastic foster carers and all our partners who have played a critical role in this improvement journey, together with everyone in Medway who plays a role in supporting our most vulnerable children, young people and families.
“Children absolutely matter in Medway and we will continue to ensure they receive the best possible support and care.”
Commenting on the Ofsted report, Rory Patterson, Chair of Medway Children’s Improvement Board, said: "It's easy to underestimate the commitment and dedication needed to move a service from inadequate to good, but this is a significant achievement for Medway Council. Full praise for the improvement work must be given to the excellent leadership team in Medway, backed by a dedicated workforce. This is truly a team effort, and the council must also take great credit for providing the resources and corporate support to ensure such a positive outcome for Medway residents."