Agenda item

Meeting Theme: Children's Social Care

At the 2 March 2023 meeting it was proposed and agreed that as a result of work undertaken in partnership with the Local Government Association the Committee adopt a hybrid model moving forward.


This would be based on the assumption that meetings will last no more than three hours, with two hours focused on the theme and the remaining time on general matters that need to be reviewed by the Committee as existing ongoing business. 


Following consultation with the Director of People, Children and Adults’ Services it was agreed that this meeting would be Children’s Social Care Themed with reports on Children’s Improvement Update, Children’s Services Workforce Update and Portfolio Holders holding to account reports.





The Assistant Director introduced the report and gave a presentation which detailed the improvement journey progress in the service as well as workforce, and the following were highlighted:


  • There had been a restructure of the adolescent service which moved the service into the whole social work team, had enabled more capacity for the management of workloads and had resulted in fewer complaints.
  • The service for disabled children had been restructured which meant there was improved support for families. There was still a lot of work to be done to improve plans and extensive work was being undertaken on commissioning of services. Work was underway on development of a sufficiency strategy, creation of framework and to improve on the offer for children.
  • There had been an increase in supervision and management oversight, this area still required improvement, but steps were being taken to move in the right direction.
  • Turnover of social workers remained high, vacancy rates although high remained stable against context of national increase.


Members raised several questions and comments which included:


Vulnerable Adolescents – in response to a question on partnership working to tackle issues experienced by vulnerable adolescents, the officer said that there was cross cutting work across all services in the Council to respond to concerns about adolescents. This involved a whole spectrum of joined up work right from early intervention through to youth services. Partnerships had been strengthened in recent years, particularly with other services such as housing and the police.


It was further asked whether, through the merging of adolescent services across the whole social work service, there had been a loss of any specialist knowledge. The officer said that the adolescent services was originally a standalone service. In an attempt to have all specialist expertise in one place, consequently due to the small size of the team and the increasing number of young people over the years with complex needs, the capacity of the team to manage had been compromised. Moving the service into the social work teams allowed for more capacity to adequately respond to needs and provided valuable management oversight. The importance of specialist knowledge was however recognised and would continue to be built and strengthened.


Reduction in children in need – clarification was sought about the reference in the report made to a concerted effort to reduce the number of children in need cases. The officer said that due to the difficulties experienced with capacity, specialist project teams were brought in to work on cases to improve timeliness and step up or down cases appropriately. This piece of work was about ensuring the right plans were in place and children were in the correct part of the service at the right time.


Complaints – it was asked what the situation was with complaints. The officer said that not all complaints were dealt with through the formal three stage process as there were several methods used to manage concerns and deal with complaints received.

Recruitment - in response to questions on the use of social media as a marketing tool to engage with and attract workforce to Medway, the officer confirmed that as part of the latest recruitment campaign there was a focus on use of social media platforms including Twitter (X), which had generated interest and resulted in some conversions. The recruitment market remained challenging.


It was further asked what changes were being made to enable increased retention of staff. The officers acknowledged that retention remained a challenge not only for Medway but nationally. In addressing this, there was a strong focus on investing in, and growing own staff. There was still a high locum rate with more to be done to ensure ability to not only attract but to retain permanent staff.


Sufficiency - it was asked how the payment structure and Medpay would improve performance. The officer said that sufficiency was improving and there was an attractive renumeration offer in place but there were still issues with capacity. Issues with performance had improve but members were reminded this was due to several factors, and addressing this was an area of focus for staff and management.


Staff wellbeing - in response to questions on what was in place to support staff wellbeing, the officer said that there was an extensive wellbeing offer in place which included practice development team support, access to care first, training opportunities, mentoring, and coaching.


Missing Children – it was asked whether there was a structured multiagency approach to tackling issues, particularly a strong partnership with the Police. The officer confirmed that there was a strengthened partnership in place with Kent Police who had a specialist safeguarding team that dealt specifically with missing children. The team worked in the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub which consisted of front-line social workers. The challenge was dealing with cases of missing Medway children outside of the borough.




1)    The Committee noted the Improvement Update Report, and the steps taken to drive and sustain ongoing improvements.


2)    The Committee noted that maintaining a focus on improving services and embedding changes will significantly contribute to better outcomes for children and families in Medway.


3)    The Committee noted the children’s services workforce update, the challenges, and barriers to recruiting a permanent workforce and the steps taken to drive progress.


4)    The Committee noted that improving workforce stability will significantly contribute to better outcomes for children and families in Medway.