A Medway councillor declared the council to be a ‘disgrace’ at last night’s scrutiny meeting where they debated the Ofsted report of Medway’s children services.
Ofsted released their report on 27 August 2019, where they deemed Medway’s children services to be inadequate.
Councillors met for the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee where they discussed the report and how they tend to move forward.
Labour Cllr Joanne Howcroft-Scott was visibly upset during the debate as she said: “We are absolutely a disgrace in my opinion.
“This is grave. We are inadequate.”
At the meeting, Ian Sutherland, Director of People – Children and Adults Services, who headed the debate, said he was not expecting Medway’s children services to be deemed inadequate but rather ‘room for improvement’.
Cllr Howcroft-Scott later commented that this was not good enough. She said: “You have to aim higher. These are the most vulnerable children and we are the corporate parents of these children.”
Speaking with her this morning, she was shocked at the Ofsted report as she said councillors were told it would be a promising Ofsted report. Councillors were told they might be ‘pleasantly surprised’ but this turned out not to be the case.
Since 2011 Medway’s children services have had elements of ‘room for improvement’ but this year’s report has seen two out of the three domains graded inadequate.
In the report, Ofsted wrote: “Services to help and protect children in Medway are inadequate. Most areas have deteriorated since the single inspection of services in 2015.
“Many vulnerable children who have experienced long-term neglect, and those at risk or exploitation and who go missing from home or care, live in situations of actual harm or are at risk of harm for too long.”
Labour Cllr for Gillingham North, Pat Cooper commented last night that the report made the ‘hairs on the back of her head stand up’.
She said: “It was shocking to read about children and young people not being protected.
“Our social workers should be thanked for the work they do.
“Through all of this we should come together now for the children.”
Labour Cllr Clive Johnson said during the debate that they had lost the confidence of families and agencies who rely on their services.
Cllr Johnson also said that reports brought to the councillors ‘lacked specificity’ and commented that the response given on the report by council leader, Alan Jarret was ‘bad’.
Commenting on Cllr Jarrett’s speech, Cllr Howcroft-Scott said: “When you’re the leader you should be the leading agency of change.
“A blanket statement is not helpful.
“We can’t be putting a plaster on an artery. We’re talking about the most vulnerable children.”
After the report was published deputy director Ann Domeney resigned.
Asked if she had faith in the leadership to make sufficient progress, Cllr Howcroft-Scott said: “I’m troubled and concerned that we’ve got one person that’s held herself accountable and resigned.
“The query is the others.
“The director of social services were agents for change.
There were others that should be more accountable.”
Speaking positively on moving forward, Cllr Howcroft-Scott said she hopes Medway councils partnership with the London borough will be successful.
Conservative Cllr Wendy Purdy said she was ‘thoroughly disappointed’ with the report but wanted to focus on the future.
She said: “It’s important to look to the future, not to the past.
“I for one appreciate all the work they [social workers] do.”