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Sunday, 17 February 2013 15:43

Medway Council OFSTED on Protection of Children - FAILED

OFSTED visited Medway Council in January, to inspect its arrangements for the protection of children, and found the Council to be Inadequate, the lowest category, in each of the four key assessments. These are: overall effectiveness; the effectiveness of the help and protection provided to children, young people, families and carers; the quality of practice; and leadership and governance. This shocking and worrying Report follows the departure of the Head of Children's Services, Rose Collinson, last summer and her replacement by Barbara Peacock. Whilst at the time Medway Council refused to comment on the reason for the  departure of Rose Collinson, Lead Councillor for Children's Services Les Wicks now appears to be saying as reported in the Medway Messenger that early last year he recognised Children's Service were not improving fast enough and so Barbara Peacock was brought in. From which we can conclude that the previous Director was dispensed with because of failure to improve services. The OFSTED Report does identify some progress against weaknesses identified in previous inspections, but makes clear that the pace of improvement is too slow and the council has not yet succeeded in ensuring that weaknesses in core child protection work have been sufficiently addressed. For example, the council has been unable to demonstrate an effective strategic response to repeat referrals, which are exceptionally high. 

Whilst this website is primarily concerned with educational issues, Education and Children & Adult Services are run by a single Director overseen by a single Lead Member of the Council, Councillor Les Wicks, who sails serenely on, apparently oblivious to the damage  his department is causing to the life chances of Medway's children. Indeed ..............

just two weeks ago, Medway Messenger reported on the appalling proceedings at a Medway Council meeting where Councillor Wicks refused to acknowledge any responsibility for the multitude of failings in an Education Service producing some of the worst outcomes for children in the whole country, outlined in this website and elsewhere. One wonders what, apart from getting rid of one Director with a background in education and replacing her with another whose background is in Children's Services, he has contributed to tackling this debacle. 

Certainly, it is evident that combining education and children's services has been a disaster for Medway children, as it appears there is no one capable of managing, directing or leading the combined department and so either it should be broken down into its constituent parts, or a new leader needs to be found who is capable of transforming  it into an effective unit, or better still both. 

Whilst I claim no expertise in Children's Services which are primarily concerned with our most vulnerable young people, the list of actions required by OFSTED to take place immediately (five), within three months (eight), and within six months (four) is quite frightening and clearly amount to a catalogue of failure for which, surely, someone is accountable. Mr Wicks appears the only constant factor. 

Of course there was a similar problem in Kent two years ago, and here a solution has been found. Education and Children's Services were split, and a new Cabinet Member, Jenny Whittle, was appointed for Children's Services, who has ruthlessly turned the Department round. However, unlike the situation in Medway,  she is not complacent and recognises there is much further to go,  Last month's parallel inspection of KCC noted that: "Senior leaders within the council, supported by strong and well-informed political leadership, have delivered a significantly improved response at the point of referral to children’s social care services from an earlier low baseline. In consequence, children who are at risk of harm are protected by effective initial screening and prompt subsequent action by the council and police services".  I fear it will be a long wait to read something similar about Medway.

Last modified on Tuesday, 04 March 2014 17:12

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