Medway Council's failing children's service put 'on probation'

Child sat on bench
Image caption Many vulnerable children were found to be living in situations of harm, said watchdog Ofsted

Medway Council has been given six months to improve its failing children's services after two "inadequate" Ofsted ratings.

Government-appointed commissioner Eleanor Brazil reviewed the service between September and December 2019.

She concluded that the Conservative-led authority had "failed to provide an environment" for good social work.

The council said it fully accepted her findings and was committed to "immediate changes".

Ofsted's inspection in July 2019 found vulnerable children at risk or living in harmful situations.

It identified staff struggling with caseloads, inconsistent assessments and delays in progressing cases, among other issues.

The service previously received an inadequate rating in August 2013 when Ofsted said that "outcomes for children and young people looked after were poor".

'Shocking incompetence'

In her report, Ms Brazil said: "Whilst there has been action to address issues, it has been too piecemeal".

Going forward she said the council needed "intensive support" from a "suitable leadership improvement partner" and must "implement change in a planned way".

She said she would assess and report back to the minister for children and families in six months on whether "the council should continue to retain operational control".

The Labour opposition on the council said the Ofsted report highlighted "shocking incompetence" and that putting the council "on probation" was likely to be the best outcome.

Councillor Clive Johnson, shadow portfolio holder for children and young people, said: "It would have been much worse for our children's services to be taken over by another provider".

The lead member for children's services, Councillor Josie Iles, said: "We fully accept the commissioner's report and are grateful for the support and guidance we have received.

"We are committed to making immediate changes and have already taken a number of urgent steps to improve the service we deliver."

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