In which our intrepid reporter continues to look at the state of children’s social care in Medway following another damning report..
In case you hadn’t heard, Medway Council has not magically been able to improve children’s social care services in three months, following ten years of austerity.
However, the council is not off the hook and will continue to provide social care for children in the towns. On top of that, the big guns that have been sent in to help the council clean up its act and will stay for at least another six months.
How did this happen? Children in the towns were getting a raw deal, with social workers overworked, and the top tier of management digging their heads in the sand, according to the joint Ofsted and CQC report last year. This was the second time in five years the council had received the worst rating possible.
So the Department for Education’s appointed commissioner Eleanor Brazil was called in to help the council turn it all around and avoid them losing control of the services completely. Ms Brazil wrote in her three month update that problems from 2015 are still relevant today.
But you can’t say that since the damning review in July, the council has not been working on improving this poor outlook. They are recruiting a new assistant director of social care and another of education, they are learning from “good” councils and have been very receptive to all feedback.
Ms Brazil wrote in her report how the council has been “extremely welcoming and co-operative” throughout her three month stay.
One of the issues she raised in her time is how little training councillors had on issues around children and young people, and also how few meetings would discuss the problems. Maybe this is why Alan Jarrett was so taken aback by the result last year that brought Ms Brazil here in the first place.
It’s not just councillors that the senior team of staff have been accused of being “historically poor” at communication. Ms Brazil wrote that these directors should visit front line services to provide “greater confidence in the staff group that their views were being heard, understood and being responded to”.
Social workers told the inspector how they want to do their best but are devastated that the children “don’t get what they need and deserve from me”.
Buck up Medway, you’ve got six months to turn the show around and help improve the lives of 65,000 children who live in Medway, or at the least, recruit enough staff to improve those with the worst problems.
Not a small feat, but it’s one the children deserve.
Greta Byline is a journalist.