Published: Monday, 28th September 2020

Medway Council has welcomed the publication of a letter following a recent monitoring visit to Medway’s Children’s Services which reports that progress has been made in improving its services.

Medway Council has today welcomed the publication of a letter following a recent monitoring visit to Medway’s Children’s Services which reports that progress has been made in improving its services for children and young people and welcomes the foundations that have been laid for practice to change and improve.  

Since the inadequate judgement in the ILACs inspection published in August 2019, the council has prioritised the implementation of an improvement place for its Children’s Services and has worked at pace over the past year to make a number of significant improvements within the service and made substantial targeted investment to drive the developments.  

The monitoring visit, which took place in August,  highlighted a number of areas where improvements have been seen including:

  • A wide range of diagnostic work has been undertaken together with our partners to consider the areas that need to improve the most to ensure Medway’s children are safeguarded.
  • Recognition that the council has put in place the foundations for practice to improve and the positive effect these are starting to have.
  • The establishment of a permanent senior management team with clear focus on improving the quality of interventions with families.
  • Vast reduction in the caseloads of social workers to more manageable levels as a result of additional investment in staffing and a service realignment.
  • The introduction of a new model of social work practice.
  • At the ‘front door’, families receiving the right service to match their needs and effective management oversight now ensures there is rarely any delay in offering a service to families.
  • Children being seen in a timely way.
  • Partners working well together to share information and plan effectively.
  • Assessments are completed promptly and children are seen and their views considered and social workers know the children well.

The letter points out areas where further work must still be done including analysing links between high re-referral rates and the quality of intervention before initial support for a child ends and improving the quality of plans and planning for children to ensure that progress and outcomes are tracked effectively.  The letter recognised however that senior managers are realistic about the weaknesses and inconsistent quality of work found in some parts of the service and acknowledged that they recognise the challenges they face as they increase the pace of improvement work.

Speaking on the receipt of the letter, Cllr Josie Iles, Lead Member for Children’s Services commented: 'We are very pleased to receive such encouraging feedback from Ofsted at this point in our improvement journey, not least when set against the turbulent backdrop of COVID-19.  I would like to pay tribute to the entire team who have worked tirelessly to drive in these improvements whilst at the same time adjusting to very different ways of working imposed on us all by the pandemic. Every single member of staff has been actively involved in identifying how we can improve our services and their dedication to ensuring the most vulnerable children in Medway remained cared for during lockdown was really inspiring.  There is still much work to do but we are clear about what we need to do over the coming months working with our partners. I would also like to thank Eleanor Brazil, the commissioner appointed by the Department for Education to oversee our work, for all her advice and support over the past year.'

During the pandemic, the Children’s Services teams identified new and innovative ways to work with young people and their families ensuring that we could continue to support them when we couldn’t work directly with them. This included keeping our early help hubs open to provide support to families, enabling all key meetings to go ahead using virtual technology, and keeping in touch with our children, young people and families using phones and videos as well as arranging to meet them outside maintaining social distancing requirements.

Rory Patterson, Independent Chair of the Children’s Improvement Board commented: 'The Improvement Board, established by the Department for Education, to oversee this work, welcomes the findings of the Ofsted team so far and the areas highlighted for further work. Improved partnership working across all the agencies is clearly generating  results that are benefitting children and families in Medway. We remain clearly focussed on ensuring the delivery of all parts of the Improvement Plan and providing rigorous oversight of all the work being done.'

Read the letter from Ofsted.

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