Agenda item

Childrens Social Care Sufficiency Strategy 2023-2025

This report asks the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee to consider Medway’s Sufficiency Strategy 2023-2025 – ‘A place called home’. The strategy details how Medway Council, as the corporate parent, will provide and commission the right care and support for children in our care (CiC) and care experienced young people that best meets their needs. Central to enabling this is that we can provide enough places that our children can call home, with the right love, care and support wrapped around them.







The Head of Children's Services Commissioning introduced the report which followed on from the last sufficiency strategy. The strategy outlined sufficiency of services to meet the needs of children in Medway, and plans to address the challenges, and improve outcomes for children and young people.


Members raised several questions and comments which included:


Placement of Children outside of Medway - in response to a question on how rigorous the scrutiny process of children placed outside of Medway was, the Head of Children’s Commissioning said that there is a robust process of oversight for children in care who were placed outside of the authority boundaries. These placements occurred for several reasons including serious safety concerns. The oversight of the arrangements was extensive with a high level of face-to-face visits. The providers were aware of the expected high standards that were required to be adhered to and social workers were aware of the processes involved in ensuring the standards were maintained.


In house provision - in response to comments regarding the closure of children’s homes and now the reopening of the same homes and the frustration that this had been a full circle process, officers acknowledged that in house children’s home provision was a process that had gone full circle and the actions that were being taken was in response to current need. There was a demand for high quality local provision for local children which was being fuelled by the rapid changes in the market that was not evident four years ago. There was not a shortage of children’s homes placements four years ago at a time when most local authorities closed a lot of their inhouse provision. Due to the national reduction in provision, many local authorities were now in the same position as Medway and were trying to respond through reopening their children’s homes.


An independent report on children’s homes identified issues with market value, and staffing shortages, which was not an uncommon picture across the country. The priority for Medway was to try to maximise the benefits of being a unitary authority by working in partnership to try and improve outcomes by building on learning from national practice of the best solutions and to invest in own staff against reliance on the market.


The Assistant Director of Children’s Services added that there had been ongoing work in the last year on how to tackle issues and a regional approach on how to manage sufficiency across the market.


Regional Network – in response to a question on what the children’s cross regional network had done, the Head of Children’s Commissioning stated that there was extensive work underway across the region to commission placements from a shared cross regional framework. The frameworks currently in place that Medway use had been added to and was able to utilise as a potential portal to work with other local authorities.


Short Break Provision - it was asked what was being done to commission services from other providers such as Demelza who were not only a hospice but were able to also cater for and tailor services to children with disabilities. The Head of Children’s Commissioning responded that work had commenced to strengthen commissioning arrangements for children with disabilities. An engagement event to outline the vision and encourage various providers to work with Medway was being planned as well as consultation to identify family’s needs. It was important to be able to provide a range of provision for families and carers.


Edge of Care services – in response to a question on what this involved, the Assistant Director of Children’s Services said that these are made up of a range of multi-disciplinary services, including family group conferencing, specialist assessment and family partnership, which all offer intervention focused on preventing children coming into care. 


Profile of children in care - it was asked why the profile of children coming into care was getting older. The Assistant Director of Children’s Services said that the increased age of children coming into care was not unique to Medway. Some of this could be due to the Covid Pandemic and the impact on young people’s emotional and mental wellbeing. It was important to remember that children could suffer neglect for a long time before it was recognised and, as part of the improvements being made through the children’s improvement journey, it was expected that response to neglect would improve as well as outcomes for young people. It was impossible to anticipate what could happen with figures and it was vital to be realistic that variable factors such as an increase in Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking children would impact and inflate figures.


Leaving Care - in response to a question on how the strategy evidenced young people’s readiness to leave care, the Head of Children’s Commissioning said that in getting young people prepared for adulthood, they collaborated extensively with independent providers on preparation tools. The Assistant Director of Children’s Social Care added that they were building internal training programmes to provide advice and guidance to support young people in moving on to independent living. The aspiration officer in the 16+ service assisted young people with education and employment training and the housing personal adviser assisted with managing tenancies.




The Committee noted the Children’s Sufficiency Strategy 2023-2025


Supporting documents: