Medway Council’s provision for children’s social care has been given the lowest possible rating by Ofsted inspectors, who have branded the services inadequate.
Following a two week inspection in July, inspectors have cited a catalogue of problems with the provision, citing a deterioration in provision since the previous inspection in 2015.
“Services to help and protect children in Medway are inadequate. Most areas have deteriorated since the single inspection of services in 2015. Many vulnerable children who have experienced long-term neglect, and those at risk of exploitation and who go missing from home or care, live in situations of actual harm or are at risk of harm for too long. Senior leaders have sustained improvements in the ‘front door’ single point of access (SPA) and the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) following the priority actions identified in the 2018 joint targeted area inspection. However, they have failed to recognise or address the serious and widespread concerns identified by inspectors in the early help hubs and the assessment and longer-term team ‘pods’. Attempts to drive improvement in these areas have had little impact, and the pace of change has been too slow.”
The report highlights ‘serious shortcomings’ within the leadership of the service, painting a picture of senior managers who are unaware of the experiences of users, and oblivious to the day to day issues within the provision.
“Leaders and elected members are cognisant of the challenges within the service, but their understanding is not based on a systematic analysis of weaknesses. The primary focus of these leaders has been on process and compliance. Ineffective and uncoordinated systems impede the local authority’s ability to track and evidence progress. Despite the improvements found during a focused visit in February 2019, a lack of critical enquiry, combined with an over-reliance on unreliable audit findings and an over-optimistic self-assessment, means that senior leaders and politicians have failed to evaluate and understand children’s lived experiences across the wider service. These are serious shortcomings, as senior leaders did not know about the extent of the failures to help and protect children until this inspection. In the very high number of cases brought to their attention by inspectors, managers and leaders had to act to ensure that children’s needs were met, or that plans to protect children from harm were progressed appropriately.”
The report goes on to highlight significant flaws within the provision, including children not receiving the care they require, being taken out of the service too quickly, fragmented services, a lack of capacity for the number of cases, high turnover of social workers, and children leaving care not receiving the expected support. As a result, not one part of Medway Council’s provision has been rated as good.
We understand that Ann Domeney, Deputy Director of Children and Adults at Medway Council has left her position as a result of this report, but the authority will likely have to take significantly more action to bring the provision up to where it should be.
Edited to add: The Secretary of State for Education has stepped in, issuing instructions on turning around the services, with the threat that children’s social care provisions could be removed from Medway Council’s control if deemed appropriate: