Martin Gray is Director of Children’s Services at Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council has recently signed up with IMPOWER to take forward the Valuing Care programme in the borough. I first heard about this idea at last year’s ADCS conference, and have had many conversations with those already using it to understand if it is right for us.
We started the work last week, and I’m really excited about what it might bring to our approach to the increasingly difficult area of being able to find the right support and placements for the children in our care.
Whilst nothing can provide the single magic ingredient in such a complex area, what attracts me to Valuing Care is that it provides a clear link between the needs of children, outcomes and costs.
The importance of clearly identifying needs might seem obvious, but I still see too many reports and placement requests where risks are identified but needs aren’t. Not only does this increase costs of placements, but more importantly, it also potentially reduces our ability to provide the right support to children and help them to achieve positive outcomes.
By understanding needs, and using these to be clear about placement choices, we should be able to be clearer about the outcomes we are looking for, and to understand costs better. That will enable us to buy better and be clearer about gaps in the market and how we can fill them.
At the start though, I am really keen to see how we can apply the approach to develop a much clearer and more consistent way of assessing needs. So our initial focus is on the way in which it can support permanence planning and decision making, as this is definitely an area we need to get better at.
I am also keen to learn from those who have been on the journey for longer than us. I really like the emphasis the programme places on learning and sharing together.
I’m looking forward to getting stuck in.