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Council’s children’s services receives ‘Good’ rating for first time in its history

Medway Council Children’s Services received a ‘Good’ rating from Ofsted four years after receiving a rating of ‘Inadequate’.

13/09/23

Council’s children’s services receives ‘Good’ rating for first time in its history

Medway Council Children’s Services has been judged as ‘Good’ by Ofsted for the first time in its history.

The favourable rating comes four years after the service was rated ‘Inadequate’ in 2019 as council leaders hailed the ‘significant improvement journey’ with extensive commitment and measures put in place.

Following a full Ofsted inspection in July 2023, inspectors concluded that the services provided for children and families in Medway have ‘substantially improved’ since the previous inspection, ranking three of the four service areas as ‘Good’.

The experiences and progress of children in care, the experiences and progress of care leavers, and the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families were all judged to be ‘Good’. However, the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection was judged as ‘Requires Improvement’.

Commenting on the Ofsted report, Rory Patterson, Chair of Medway Children’s Improvement Board, praised the “excellent leadership team, backed by a dedicated workforce”.

"It's easy to underestimate the commitment and dedication needed to move a service from inadequate to good, but this is a significant achievement for Medway Council.

“This is truly a team effort, and the council must also take great credit for providing the resources and corporate support to ensure such a positive outcome for Medway residents."

Inspectors from Ofsted found that corporate and political leaders have addressed the systemic weaknesses and there is now a “strong, determined and cohesive leadership team.” They said leaders have achieved significant progress, with a well-managed ‘front door’ and ‘early help service’, which ensures appropriate initial and timely responses to children’s needs.

Ofsted recognised that there have also been significant improvements with the impact of the Corporate Parenting Board, and that the “voice of children is heard loud and clear” by all members of the board. The report states that there is also a real presence and understanding of the child’s voice in all corporate meetings and decision-making forums.

Ofsted also highlighted the council’s Child-Friendly Medway dedicated programme “which has included all parts of the council and community of Medway. This has raised the awareness of others and the profile of children in care and care-experienced young people.”

Although there have been challenges with recruitment and retaining staff, Medway Council has been “persistent and creative” in its approach. The council has improved its learning and development opportunities for social workers and has increased the number of social workers to reduce caseloads, which has given staff time to develop their practice and work more effectively.

Ofsted also recognised that the council has a clear and realistic understanding of the further improvements needed to make sure all children receive a consistently good, or better, service.

Whilst delighted with the outcome, the council leaders say there are still improvements to be made in areas of the service. Inspectors found that variability remains in the quality and impact of social work practice, specifically in the longer-term support provided to vulnerable adolescents, particularly those young people at risk of exploitation.

Leader of Medway Council, Labour Cllr Vince Maple, said he was “absolutely delighted” by the judgement.

“Across the council as a whole, and with support from our partners, there has been a relentless focus on improving our services for children and young people over the past four years and ensuring that they all receive the care and support they need remains one of the new administration’s key priorities.

“We recognise that there is still more to be done to achieve a consistently good service for all our children and families and we are committed to continuing to build on the progress we have made."

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