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North East Update April 2017

Martin Gray became DCS in Stockton in January and Margaret Whellans, who has been interim DCS in Durham for the past eight months has now taken up the permanent post. There are currently two interim DCSs in post in the region (in Gateshead and Middlesbrough) with permanent appointments anticipated in the coming months.

Teaching Partnership

The North East Social Work Alliance (NESWA) is an agreement between the 12 local authorities, five campus-based universities in the region and the Open University. The Partnership aims to improve the quality of social work education.

Since the success of our bid for funding from the Department for Education we have recruited a project lead, placement co-ordinator and project administrator to support the Partnership. The project administrator and placement co-ordinator have agreed start dates in April 2017.

The Partnership is governed by a Steering Group, and sub-committees are responsible for ensuring progress on the key areas of admissions, programmes, placements and progression.

Buckinghamshire New University has been appointed as independent evaluation partner following a procurement exercise. Projects have been allocated within the partnership by mutual agreement with the exception of the development of a Practice Development MSc and of a workforce plan, both projects require further exploration.

Sector Led Improvement

Eight local authorities in the region have agreed to participate in a new approach to peer review covering children’s and adult services, which was initially piloted in North Tyneside children’s services. Peer review training will take place in May, facilitated by a colleague from the Yorkshire and Humber region and a series of reviews will begin to take place from the summer. The aim is to grow capacity within the region to strengthen peer review arrangements within the region.

The region is also in the early stages of trialling a process of case file audits as part of our sector led improvement offer. The aim is to develop a shared understanding of ‘good’ practice, support a consistently good approach to quality assurance and grow capacity and expertise in the region.

Workforce Development

Local authorities have been in discussion with Firstline to see how they might expand take up of the programme in the region, particularly amongst smaller authorities who have not previously been able to take part. On the basis of initial meetings, they anticipate strong interest from staff.

The regional Workforce Development Group has been developing a regional agreement in relation to agency social worker rates and quality standards and hopes to be in a position to implement new arrangements from May.

Another aspect of our regional workforce development strategy is to promote career opportunities in the North East, initially focusing on those currently living and working outside the region. We are planning a regional presence at a forthcoming national recruitment fair to begin building a North East brand outside of the region.

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