Hot on the heels of our High Needs session, last week we had the pleasure of hosting an online event looking at all things children’s services improvement with council Chief Executives and Directors of Children’s Services. Having framed the event with a number of sector leaders over the past few months, we explored the following themes:
- What has changed as a result of the pandemic?
- What are the conditions required for sustainable improvement?
- How do you successfully pivot from improvement to transformational activity?
- What role do we need Chief Executives/elected officials to play?
ADCS and sector-led improvement
- How realistic is the ‘catch them before they fall’ concept described with the launch of the ILACS framework?
- How effective has sector-led improvement really been to date?
- What are the triggers/‘pre-fall’ moments where there is a chance to turn things around quickly?
It was a fascinating debate, with five key takeaways for me:
- The pandemic has led to a step-change in partnership working, especially with schools which have generally been on a divergent trajectory from councils over the last 20 years. We need to build on this as we look to ‘bounce forward’ from the challenges of the past 12 months.
- There is a risk that positive changes like partnership working, plus the heightened focus on economic recovery, results in a lack of focus on the true cost of the pandemic to children – and therefore a lack of focus on children’s services.
- Often the biggest challenge to children’s services is ‘the corporate centre’, when it is just paying lip service to supporting children’s work or has not strategically prioritised children and young people. Children’s services failings are all too often the public manifestation of a whole council that is failing.
- Sector-led support only works when it is about the joining-up of likeminded people and organisations. It doesn’t work when artificial geographical boundaries are drawn up, partnerships are forced, or operating models are applied through a process of ‘lift and shift’. ADCS regions also need greater empowerment to step in when they are concerned about a particular council or a colleague who is clearly struggling.
- There are opportunities to intervene early, and before crisis points; brave and decisive leadership is key to this, combined with a willingness to invest.
If you would like to hear more about our work in children’s services, please get in touch.