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Nigel Richardson, Chair, Yorkshire and Humber Region
Directors of children’s services in the region have maintained a strong collective focus on priorities this year despite a significant number of personnel changes amongst the group. The collective commitment to social worker recruitment, retention and development has continued through the on-going ‘Children’s Social Work Matters’ campaign underpinned by joint learning and development around the first point of contact (the ‘front door’), early intervention services and case allocation, this includes a growing shared focus on issues relating to domestic violence.
Authorities have increasingly offered high support and high challenge to each other on issues of national and local significance. For example, after Ofsted highlighted education standards as being below those in other regions, a clear, strategic, regional response was devised drawing on national best-practice but also emphasising learning from the best across the region.
The region has been pro-active in using events and research to respond and plan where there are significant changes or challenges facing the sector. The region hosted a major education summit in February 2014 with regional and national attendance and input for more than 250 attendees, which through the presentation of research and best practice has been the catalyst for a number of schools across the region to pioneer a shared learning and improvement initiative.
The region has been pro-active in seeking to develop its approach in relation to health reforms and health and social care integration. Research work and a subsequent publication informed a regional conference, which has been followed with joint working around the reforms and the commissioning of the healthy child programme.
Key and emerging safeguarding issues are being addressed. A strategic planning event for the region was held in relation to child sexual exploitation and this was complemented with a practitioner’s event.
Professionals from across the region have also worked together on a number of other shared agendas, for example, holding a regional Youth Forum event.
Over the past year the regional ADCS group has met with speakers including:
Andrew Webb (ADCS President)
Alan Wood (ADCS Vice President)
Sir Michael Wilshaw (Chief Inspector of Schools, Ofsted)
Nick Hudson (Regional Director of Ofsted)
Julie Jenkins (Update on Regional Children’s Social Care Leadership Group)
Colin Hilton (LGA)
All 15 local authorities have committed to receiving a peer challenge between 2013– 2015.These will focus on challenge and support in relation to aspects of safeguarding or school improvement. Seven local authorities have chosen school improvement as their peer challenge theme and the first of these has been completed, with very positive feedback. A register of trained peer challengers in now in place.
The region has completed its second annual self-assessment process. A regional data hub has been established. A regional data set (produced quarterly) underpins a structured self-assessment process, and the subsequent production of increasingly sophisticated reports which have informed challenge events involving directors and senior managers. Succession planning underpins a regional leadership programme and this is complemented by a ‘managers as leaders’ programme for 300 front-line social work managers.
Over the coming year the region will continue to develop its focus on sector-led improvement by: continuing the peer challenge and improvement activity; further investing in front line social work managers, with follow up activities to the ‘managers as leaders’ programme; and extending initial activity to explore collaborative approaches to leadership across health, adult services and children’s services.
The region will continue the social work matters campaign and the wider shared learning and development relating to key safeguarding challenges, in particular domestic violence.
The regional pioneer schools programme and the wider joint approach to raising education standards will also be an on-going focus for the group.
Nigel Richardson, Director of Children's Services at Leeds City Council is the new Chair of the YH Group following Alison Michalska's move out of the region to Nottingham City Council
Building on our firm regional foundation of collaboration and personal resilience, with our Lead Members, chief executives & assistant directors, the Yorkshire & Humber Branch is striving to deliver the best possible outcomes for all our children in the increasingly challenging and resource limited environment.
The branch meets bi-monthly, a ‘Chatham House’ evening meeting with guest speakers, followed by a business meeting the next day.
As local government is not the only sector facing change
so we have focussed on the place of children in the health
reforms. Recognising the risk that organisational change
within the health community could result in unhelpful
fragmentation of commissioning arrangements, distracting
from delivery but also, the opportunities that could
materialise. Concerned that in the debates with Health and
Wellbeing Boards and Clinical Commissioning Groups the
children’s agenda risked being overlooked by fi nancial and
demographic pressures we:
We have built upon our unique 2011 Children’s Social Work Matters campaign run collaboratively by all 15 regional Councils and DCSs. Our campaign’s objective was to raise the profi le of children’s social workers, with spin-offs to help boost recruitment and improve morale.
With a regional population of over 5 million people and limited budget, we ran a highly targeted digital campaign, infl uencing graduates, career-switchers and qualifi ed children’s social workers, raising awareness amongst the general public, with real children’s social workers championing the campaign.
As one big team, we worked with colleagues in public
relations, communications, human resources & social work
in all councils and DCSs with the following outcomes:
In September 2012 we carried out in-depth focus groups and telephone interviews with social workers across the region to inform our Phase 2 strategy, resulting in the launch of a private section of the main site for 2,000+ social work professionals in the region. We have created a directory, a Linked-in type mechanism to network, an online forum, best practice, monthly guest speakers and a new video.
Our sector-led improvement activity goes from strength to strength, getting to grips with self-assessment and peer challenge, involving all 15 local authorities in delivery and receipt of peer reviews and challenge activities focussed on key policy areas. Building on self-assessment and peer challenges we are fi nalising our priorities and support plans for continued improvement.
This year we said goodbye to Elaine McHale, our Chair, Cynthia Welbourn, Sonia Sharp and Judith Harwood and welcomed three interim colleagues; Jayne Ludlam, Jim Crook and Ged Rowney.
The Yorkshire and Humber branch have made significant strides in working and cooperating together ahead of the implementation of the sector-led improvement expectations. The members work and play hard and many of us enjoy taking part in sponsored events in aid of various charitable causes. As well as having a strong support network professionally, we always endeavour to support each other informally. We have established some firm foundations, particularly in relation to the way in which lead members, chief executives and directors of children’s services will work collaboratively to support the highest possible quality of services for all our children.
Meetings and events
The branch continue to meet on a bi-monthly basis which are held in two parts; an evening meeting with guest speakers, followed by the full business meeting on the following day.
Guest speakers have included Christine Gillbert (Ofsted), Mark Edgell (LGA), Matt Dunkley (ADCS President), David Behan (Department of Health), and Maggie Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner for England.
Safeguarding Research Report: 14 local authorities in the region have taken part and contributed to the research, being the largest nationally ever to have been undertaken. This helps us to identify systematic approaches to how we deal with demand on the front door.
Attract and Support Project: The project and showcase of this programme includes:
Further meetings have been held and attended as part of projects and sector-led improvement work including:
The four projects showcased at the conference were:
Building on our activity we have developed a regional programme for peer support and part of this includes a review covering five policy areas and we have had two local authorities already undergo peer challenge.
Future activities will include workshops and seminars and a series of activities to help local authorities challenge their own performance in key policy areas. We are working to set a strategic direction and support plans for the improvement of children’s services in the Yorkshire & Humber region.
The Yorkshire and Humber branch continues to meet bi-monthly. Attendance levels are high and the group has continued to develop and strengthen as a region in many aspects. The meetings prove valuable in discussing proposals, making decisions, sharing ideas and the region prides itself on its collaborative working and dedicated support to each other.
Guests have attended our meetings such as Marion Davies, Christine Gilbert, HMCI, and these meetings have proved productive and interesting.
The past year has been particularly challenging with a range of outcomes from our announced and unannounced inspections. However the branch has continued to support each other around these processes and during difficult times.
One success this year has without a doubt been the regional Safeguarding Project, which has revealed some very interesting and extremely useful findings about how the local authorities in the region deal with children’s referrals. The evidence base and information links well with the Munro Review. We have received full participation from all but one of the local authorities in the region making it a truly regional collaboration. The findings and analysis will enable us to review, and therefore improve, practice regionally to a greater level.
The Attract and Support project is another major and significant project, consisting of many workstreams, including: the development of a regional social worker agency; media recruitment for social workers; succession planning; skills bank; and workforce development. This project also has full participation and secured funding and we are excited at what this will bring.
As a region we are seeking to identify ways of collaborating in the delivery of services in order to reduce expenditure and realign our focus for 2011.
We have seen some recent changes to our membership. Nigel Richardson has now transferred as DCS to Leeds. We have recently welcomed John Readman to Hull and Judith Harwood will be DCS for Barnsley in the very near future.