Children's Services Criticised

Medway Council has apologised and vowed to make speedy improvements following the publication of a damning Ofsted report which labelled its child protection services inadequate.

Inspectors demanded that a raft of immediate changes be carried out after their highly critical report identified a series of failings.

Ofsted found that the overall effectiveness of the authority's child protection arrangements were inadequate, along with its leadership and governance and quality of practice.

Inspectors who carried out an unannounced visit last month discovered "significant deficits'' in key elements of children's social care services.

Other areas found wanting were in the council's effectiveness to help and protect children, young people, families and carers, the report also noted.

Social workers were "committed and hardworking'' but faced challenges such as "high caseloads, systems and processes that do not support effective social work practice and recent instability at senior management level''.

Inspectors also found that some cases were closed without families being redirected to another service or offered further support.

No children were deemed at "immediate risk'' but Ofsted said failings in case recording, quality of practice and management oversight led to ``some children being inadequately protected''.

Commenting on the report, councillor Les Wicks, the portfolio holder for children's services, said: "I would like to unreservedly apologise to the people of Medway, our children and families, for our failure to deliver the children's safeguarding service that our children and young people in Medway deserve.

"The situation is not good enough and is not acceptable.''

The council's chief executive Neil Davies said it was an "immensely disappointing'' report for the authority, which had its child protection services rated adequate following its last inspection in 2011.

But he said that since then Ofsted had introduced more rigorous testing. Mr Davies said positives were highlighted, including that people and services who work with children and families in Medway were passionate about their job.

Inspectors also noted that the new senior managers at the authority were "very clear'' about the changes needed and that they recognised that the pace of improvement had been too slow.

Mr Davies said: "I have been very forthright in my belief that the work we do around child protection and safeguarding needs to improve and when it became clear last year that this was not happening quickly enough I considered this unacceptable.

"However, I am confident that the directorate - under (director of children and adult services) Barbara Peacock - has the right leadership and right plan in place to deliver the improvements needed. Ofsted has recognised this clearly in the report.''

Ms Peacock said: "We wholly accept the findings in today's Ofsted report. The inspectors have highlighted that Medway has committed and conscientious social workers and our improvement plan builds on that commitment to their work.

"Ofsted has recognised that we already have a comprehensive improvement plan and we are already making rapid progress in delivering those improvements.''

Medway Council has around 65,000 children and young people under the age of 19, accounting for just over 24% of the area's total population.

Fifteen per cent are entitled to free school meals, below the national average. Children and young people from minority ethnic groups account for around 20% of the total school age population, compared with 17% nationwide.