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All for one and one for all

The West Midlands ADCS has been quietly unifying over a small but significant group of improvement priorities.

Back in December, we took a hard look at ourselves and our performance across the full range of children’s outcomes. Whilst there is some excellence in our patch we didn’t particularly like what we saw overall. When outcomes are below the national average and the performance profile is bottom of the pack, it is an uncomfortable place to be. Particularly when you discover that the region has the second highest number of 0-16 year olds, so is having an impact on a very large group of people.

We’re a feisty lot here though. We decided enough is enough and we set ourselves a goal - to become the best performing region in the country by 2021.

None of us can predict what will happen over that period – even predicting what’s going to happen in a month is a challenge in these turbulent times. We’ve taken the view though that if we focus on outcomes we can work together in flexible ways that will hopefully withstand any external changes. At the core of this ambition, is helping to make a real difference to children and families - putting them at the heart, driving the changes they need to make.

Our four priorities are recognisable to everyone – improving quality of practice; managing risk and demand; better education, skills and economic outcomes; and developing our workforce. What we think is really positive in the West Midlands is the way the 14 councils have agreed to work together to make a tangible difference, endorsed by politicians and chief executives.

For example, we’ve got a bid into the innovation fund for FutureSocial. FutureSocial is a regional social work academy combining workforce planning, workforce development, regional career development, career pathways and support arrangements. If you work in the West Midlands, you are part of both an organisation and a region supporting you to be the best you can be, throughout your career.

We’re also working with Ofsted and the Regional Schools Commissioner to turn around the educational progress and attainment of our children and young people – there’s some real strength in individual authorities, so we are working together to share our intelligence and strategies to drive change through the region and linking this to our economic ambitions.

Running through this is a collective belief that, as a group of directors and a region of authorities with thousands of professionals, we are better working together than working alone. We can make the sum of the parts greater than the whole and change outcomes significantly by doing so.

This would also be true if we shared the load and did more thinking across the regions. We could see more collaboration and sharing of good practice across the regions at the recent national Agency Social Work workshop we hosted with the LGA. Just think what more we can do together on a range of things – maybe the topic for a future blog?

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