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Doing the best job of your life

I do love a quote. It is incredible that human beings throughout history have created so much insight and inspiration through quotes. The fantastic people I am lucky enough to work alongside in Northamptonshire know that one of my favourite quotes is from the late Steve Jobs who said ‘do the best job of your life every single day’ and I always accompany this quote by saying that ‘I promise I will too’. Some days it is tough for all of us and doing your best with the best support is often the best you can do.

But what is the ‘best job’? I might be biased but I think it’s being a senior leader in children’s services, although the national narrative about the ‘best job’ in children’s services changes depending on context. Is it safeguarding children by taking them into care? Is it balancing the budget? Is it achieving the latest Ofsted grading? Is it supporting families to stay together? Is it supporting children who have fled from another country? The ‘best job’ is certainly not an absolute and whilst all of the above matter, there can be conflicting priorities to hold and manage.

Would anyone not place a child in care in the best place for them to live due to cost? Of course not but in some cases the cost can be eye-watering which conflicts with the balanced budget. When public sector savings are proposed which are linked to children’s services the narrative is often ‘reduce non-statutory’ services. However, over12 years of austerity has meant difficult decisions have had to be made, leading to us reducing vital early support for families provided by professionals across local partnerships. This can add significant pressure on families and children who may then come into care because we were unable to meet needs earlier. The recently published Childhood Matters paper from ADCS is essential reading to help understand the current situation and what needs to change.

In my view, the ‘best job’ of a leader in children’s services is to balance all of these challenges and ensure that front line colleagues who work with children, young people and families are supported to be the best they can be. It is to create a culture of learning with appropriate support and challenge across our local areas. A culture where professionals have the right support and are trusted to make the right decisions which improve outcomes for children and young people. Finally, know who you can reach out to when you need some help, a listening ear and wise counsel. This is something I have always valued from members of our Association, our region and the fabulous ADCS staff team.

Ok, so back to quotes. Mahatma Gandhi said ‘be the change you want to see’ and this quote inspired me when I chose this career. Sometimes making change happen can seem impossible, but as Nelson Mandela said ‘it always seems impossible before it is done’. So maybe it is all about looking at yourself and knowing you have done the best job of your life today.

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