The Medway Labour and Cooperative Group have criticised Conservative Medway Council as Ofsted warned again that services for children were still not good enough. This judgement followed Ofsted’s monitoring visit held in January which focused on children in care. The continuing struggle of the Conservative administration to provide a good level of services for vulnerable Medway children follows an inspection judgement of ‘Inadequate’ in 2019 and was preceded by judgements of ‘Inadequate’ in 2013 and ‘Requires Improvement’ in 2015.
Ofsted’s latest monitoring of Medway’s progress, released last week, has found areas of improvement. Leadership was found to be stable and relentlessly focused on improvement and the pace of change was accelerating, with managers having a good understanding of strengths and where improvement needs to be made. However, there are still key issues that need urgent improvement, such as continuing inconsistent standards of practice, poor emotional and wellbeing support for our young people and variable standards of management oversight of social workers. Ofsted points out that shocking delays in the court system are also having a negative impact as well as weaknesses in data collection and management.
Cllr Tristan Osborne, Labour and Cooperative Group Member of Medway Council’s Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee, said, ‘We absolutely recognise that council officers, senior managers, social workers and other council staff in children’s services are working hard to improve the lives of our young people. However, failures in government workforce planning over the past decade have let local authorities without an adequate supply of social workers.
‘A Labour government would address these national issues, including tackling the market in placements which leads to too few placements at too high a price. This report does not have an explicit Ofsted judgement but it is clear that Medway’s Conservative administration are culpable for shocking failure over a number of years. and we will continue to hold them to account to make sure they do right by the young people they have responsibility for.’
Cllr Clive Johnson, Medway Labour and Cooperative Shadow Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said, ‘The report is clear: services for our young people are not yet good enough. Medway’s children’s services have a long way to go but I have confidence in the leadership of council officers within the service to make significant progress, as this report implies they have done. However, the Conservative administration still has considerable challenges: developing the workforce to ensure recruitment and retention are sound, bearing down on inconsistency in the services they are responsible for and making rapid improvements to mental health and wellbeing support for young people.
‘The Labour Group will continue to fight hard to ensure that investment is maintained and that the Conservative administration provides the support officers need to make the rapid and sustained progress our young people deserve. That includes not simply ensuring that government intervention is removed but having an ambition that Medway’s Children’s Services are good or better. Medway Labour Group will never be complacent as the Conservatives have been. We will not accept second best for Medway.’