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Looking Forward

As I write this, there has been a huge amount happening in children’s services over the past couple of weeks. I am not going to rehearse the content of ‘Stable Homes, Built on Love: Implementation Strategy and Consultation’ (or the Children’s Social Care National Framework Consultation, or, indeed, the Child and Family Social Worker Workforce Consultation), but I am going to talk about leading through uncertainty, opportunities and looking to the future.

As leaders of children’s services, we have a golden opportunity to shape the future of children’s services for a generation. This week, I’ve been reflecting on how frontline staff are interpreting the strategy and what it means to them. Some are feeling excited about the future and see these times as a chance to be part of building a better system for supporting and safeguarding children. Others are feeling uncertain about what it might mean for their roles and how these changes might affect their work. These differing feelings are likely to be felt by our safeguarding partners, and others too. Investing in relationships both inside and outside of our organisations is going to be key to implementing change and keeping the focus on improving outcomes for children.

Locally, we are also in the midst of a corporate transformation programme (as are many of us!) so aligning this activity with the implementation strategy, as well as any forthcoming reforms to special educational needs and education, can feel overwhelming. When feeling uncertain, it is so easy to slip into the language of ‘challenge’ or ‘pressure’ which can stifle constructive thinking, discourage creativity and stop us seeing the opportunities for doing things differently. Leading through uncertainty requires us to demonstrate confidence and be clear about our vision, but also admit that there are things we don’t know. Listening to and involving staff in these discussions helps us to build trust and motivation to implement change. It also gives us an opportunity to challenge established thinking and be challenged ourselves about how we can create the ‘right’ conditions for staff to practice differently.

Regardless of what we think about the DfE implementation strategy, we all want to ensure that our communities of children and families receive the services they need and deserve. And I, for one, am determined to use the opportunities contained in the implementation strategy to achieve this, both regionally and locally.

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