Medway’s independent commissioner for Children’s Services has been stood down in light of the council making good progress in its improvement journey to the services it offers children.
The Secretary of State has withdrawn Commissioner Eleanor Brazil from Medway Council with effect from 1 January 2021, based on improvement evidenced in a series of progress reports from the commissioner, Ofsted and Chair of the Improvement Board.
Consequently, the revised direction means Medway Council will continue to run its own Children’s Services whilst continuing to make further improvements to the services it provides for children and young people.
Improvements made to Children's Services
Medway Council has significantly invested in additional staffing and training, with social workers having much smaller caseloads than before - this has improved the quality of the team’s direct work with children. Medway has also adopted ‘Signs of Safety’ as its new model of social work practice, enabling its social workers to establish and focus on the right priorities in order to keep children and young people safe. Improvement work has also been carried out on the plans to support children in care to ensure they have a stable home life to help them thrive, remain healthy and learn well. Medway Council is also working more closely with its partner agencies, especially schools, to best respond to the needs of any vulnerable children.
In August 2019, Medway’s Children’s Services received an inadequate Ofsted rating following an Inspection of Local Authority Children’s Services (ILACS) between 15 and 26 July 2019. The Department for Education appointed a commissioner to identify improvements and recommend any additional support required. Commissioner Eleanor Brazil has worked closely with the council to oversee Medway’s improvement journey. However, on Friday, 29 January 2020, the Department for Education confirmed it has revised its direction made to Medway Council due to the ongoing progress which has been made in improving its Children’s Services over the past year.
Committed to making improvements
The positive news follows a monitoring visit which was held in August 2020 and highlighted a number of areas where improvements had been seen, including families receiving the right service to match their needs and children being seen in a timely way. More recently, the latest commissioner’s report acknowledges ‘the relentless drive on recruitment and retention has been very successful’ and this has made a positive difference to staff confidence and morale.
To support Medway with its ongoing improvement journey, the Secretary of State has appointed Gladys Rhodes White as Medway Council’s improvement adviser. She will support the council in continuing to develop and implement robust, realistic and achievable plans to improve its children’s social care services, in particular those areas which have been rated by Ofsted to be inadequate and where improvements are still needed. This includes ensuring the council and partner agencies continue to drive and sustain improvements, as well as improve the effectiveness of the Scrutiny Committee and Corporate Parenting Panel. Medway Council will also focus on developing the work of the Child Friendly Medway Board to deliver on the ambition for children in Medway and improving the way in which the voice of children and young people is heard and influences service improvement. Maintaining recruitment and retention is also a priority, as is strengthening commissioning arrangements.
Top priority: Supporting Medway's children and young people
Leader of Medway Council, Cllr Alan Jarrett, said: “I am extremely pleased that Medway’s efforts to improve its Children’s Services have been recognised and we are able to move on to the next stage of our improvement journey. I would like to thank the commissioner for her support whilst we put the improvement plans in place during her time with us. We are pleased to be retaining our Children’s Services and will now be working with an improvement adviser to build on the progress we have made.
“Providing children and young people with the support they need remains top of our priority list. We have established a child-friendly Medway initiative which will see young people at the heart of decision making throughout the council and ensure the voice of the child is heard.
“Thank you to all the staff in Children’s Services and our partner agencies for their hard work and perseverance throughout this time. We recognise there is still lots to be done, but the leadership teams, council staff and partner agencies are all committed to working together to continue making good progress to ensure we provide Medway’s children and young people with the best possible service they deserve.”
Achieving better outcomes for children
Cllr Josie Iles, Medway Council’s Lead Member for Children’s Services, said: “I am delighted with the progress that has been made and this can be attributed to the solid partnership approach by those who support Medway’s children and young people. I would like to thank all Children’s Services staff, particularly our social care staff, who have worked incredibly hard to achieve better outcomes for children, and they continue to provide that all important care for Medway’s young people despite the many challenges they face due to the pandemic.
“We are committed to continuing to drive through further sustainable improvements and set out long-term achievements to ensure all of Medway’s children and young people are provided with opportunities and a bright future.”