William Eichler 27 August 2019

Commissioner appointed to oversee council’s ‘inadequate’ children’s services

The Government has appointed a commissioner to improve Medway Council’s children’s services after Ofsted rated them ‘inadequate’.

The secretary of state for education Gavin Williamson has appointed Eleanor Brazil as commissioner for children’s services at the Kent local authority.

He said that the Ofsted inspection in July had satisfied him that the council was ‘failing to perform to an adequate standard’.

In response, Medway Council said they ‘fully accept’ all the areas of improvement proposed by the inspectors – although the council leader Alan Jarrett said he was ‘surprised’ by Ofsted’s judgement.

‘Medway has come a long way over the years and residents remain at the heart of everything we do, so this news is hugely disappointing,’ said Cllr Jarrett.

‘I am particularly surprised by this outcome as we have invested significant additional resources within the service and carried out extensive preparation in readiness for the inspection, so I was led to believe that we would retain or improve our previous grading.’

Medway Council said they had ‘already started’ to address the feedback in the Ofsted report by appointing eight new social workers and improving the process for reviewing each case.

A new improvement action plan is also being created that will be published in the autumn.

‘Supporting our most vulnerable residents remains a top priority and I will ensure that we continue to act with urgency on the recommendations made by Ofsted to ensure that Medway’s children in need of help and protection receive the service they deserve,’ Cllr Jarrett added.

Cllr Jarrett noted that part of the problem was the financial pressures that councils are currently facing.

‘It is no secret that local authorities continue to face severe financial challenges,’ he said.

‘Despite this, I outlined Medway’s commitment to prioritising our support for young people during the last budget setting meeting in February when I allocated a further £2.6m to children’s services, in recognition of demographic pressures facing the service and to increase the number of our social workers to alleviate pressures on caseloads.

‘The children’s social care budget is around £36m this year, up by £4.5m since 2017/18. This is helping to further enhance the support we are able to provide to children living in care.’

An analysis published today by the Local Government Association has revealed that the combination of funding shortages and demand pressures forced councils to overspend on their children’s social care budgets by nearly £800m last year.

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