Medway Council has pledged to continue the very important improvements it is bringing in to its services that look after children in care. The council has vowed to do this after Ofsted inspectors graded Medway’s Looked After Children Services as inadequate.

In their report published today (Friday, 23 August ), Ofsted inspectors note that Medway Council’s staff and managers are working hard to make the necessary improvements and that action to strengthen services is continuing.

They also acknowledge that the effects of changes being brought in by the director of children’s services, who started at the council last September, have not had enough time to impact.

The report says ‘an increasing clarity of service priorities has been developed and focused action taken to provide a solid foundation for moving the service forward’.

In addition, Ofsted inspectors, who state in their report that no Looked After Child is at immediate risk of harm, also praised the authority for making considerable investment in children’s services at a time of local government cuts.

While the effects of this investment will become apparent in the months ahead, it has allowed the council to recruit more social workers, a new assistant director of social services and a new service manager for Looked After Children, the offiicial term for children placed in care.

An improvement board, under an independent chair, has also been set up. This holds monthly meetings to ensure the quality of work is continuously improving.

Ofsted say their report needs to take into account the fact that Medway has a higher number of Looked After Children than similarly sized local council areas.

It grades Medway’s capacity to improve as adequate; outcomes for looked after children and young people inadequate; quality of provision inadequate and leadership and management inadequate.

Councillor Mike O’Brien, the Lead Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, said: ” The care and protection of Medway children is the focus of everything we do and, as the report says, we are making significant progress in all the major areas that were highlighted as needing change. The council brought in a completely new top team when it realised that much work needed to be done to improve this area and we are pleased that Ofsted have recognised this. My appointment was part of that change and in my previous role I worked with others to help ensure a twenty five per cent cut in anti social behaviour in Medway and a huge reduction in youth offending. I am confident that the new director is taking the department in exactly the right direction. She will be helped in this by our new Assistant Director and a strong improvement board chaired by a very experienced children’s social care professional with a strong track record of bringing about improvement. I know we now have the right people in place to address all the issues that have been raised.

This team is working tirelessly to ensure the necessary improvements take place. It is vital to get this right and that is why we needed to recruit the right staff and make the right changes to working practices.

Barbara Peacock, the Director of Children’s Services, added: “I welcome this inspection because it gives us feedback on how we are doing, confirming that we have a solid foundation on which to move forward. When I joined the council last year, I was aware of the issues highlighted in the report and my priority has always been to ensure all the necessary changes are made. There is a lot of work to do, and we are clear on that fact, but Ofsted acknowledge we are heading in the right direction. All my team, the Council and partners are aware of the task ahead and all have good contributions to make . In the months ahead we will see positive results from the changes we have made and are continuing to make.”

Jane Held, the chair of the Improvement Board which was put in place this year, said: “As an independent chair myself and my colleagues are working with the new director of children’s services and her team to monitor the progress they are making in improving services and ensure the necessary changes to practice are implemented quickly and effectively. Medway is working hard to deliver that improvement and ensure the changes required by Ofsted are met.”

The inspection team consisted of five of Her Majesty’s Inspectors and one additional inspector. The inspection was carried out under section 136 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006.

You can read the full report on the full Ofsted website at http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/local-authorities/medway

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