Medway Council failing to protect children, damning report finds
by Jenni Horn and Rebecca Hughes
Medway is failing its most vulnerable children, according to a
Ofsted has rated Medway Council's safeguarding children
department - which should be protecting children at risk of
harm, neglect or abuse - as inadequate following an
unannounced inspection in January.
Inspectors found staff were putting children at risk by not
following procedures and not acting quickly enough.
Cllr Les Wicks, who is in charge of children's services, has
apologised for the shortcomings.
He 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 deserve. This situation is not good enough and is not
The department was rated inadequate in all four areas of the
inspection. Ofsted reported basic practices, such as
assessments and case recording, were not good enough.
There are delays in initial visits and managers need to do more
to make sure children are seen quickly when they may be at
The report states that although no children were found to be at
immediate risk, deficits in the department led to some children
being "inadequately protected".
Ofted inspectors found
Medway Council staff are failing to protect vulnerable children.
Picture posed by model
A significant proportion of assessments were insufficient so
they were not clearly identifying risks to children.
The report stated certain procedures were not being
followed, such as making sure children were spoken to alone.
Inspectors described some practices as over-optimistic and
lacking in professional curiosity.
Some assessments were based on a limited number and were not
Inspectors found there are a "very high" number of
referrals that end in no further action, while some cases are being
closed too early without the right support being provided to
families, so there are an "exceptionally high" number of
They discovered children and families experience too many
changes in their social workers and the council needs to do more to
recruit permanent staff instead of relying on agency staff.
Barbara Peacock, director of children's and adults' services
(pictured right), said she found the report very disappointing.
She added: "I'd like to apologise to the children and families
"We are very disappointed that the Ofsted report shows that
children have not been getting the support that they need."
Ofsted praised Barbara Peacock for significantly increasing the
pace of change within the department.
Ms Peacock joined Medway Council in September last year,
replacing Rose Collinson. At the time, the council refused to
explain the reasons behind Ms Collinson's departure.
Cllr Les Wicks said: "Early last year it was clear to me as the
lead member for children's services that we were not improving fast
enough to meet the standards that children in Medway deserved.
"Things needed to change faster and that is why in June last
year we appointed Barbara Peacock as our new director of children’s
and adults services.
"Since then, we have completed a thorough review of the whole
children's safeguarding area and in late 2012 we instigated a major
programme of change that was starting to address the weaknesses
identified by Ofsted's inspection in January."
The council's plan for improvement include recruiting
experienced social workers, investing funding in a new IT system,
and setting up a "transformation board" to monitor the department's
executive Neil Davies, who will be heading the board, said: "The
report is a very serious setback for us, but we are very determined
to improve and we've had in place an improvement programme for some
Medway Labour Group said it was "extremely angry" about the
It called on the council to report back publicly in 100 days on
the progress that has been made to attempt to "regain some
confidence with Medway residents".
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