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Outcomes, outcomes, outcomes

Outcomes based practice and accountability! Nothing new you might say. At a time of extreme financial challenges, and the need to reconsider our organisational forms it seems all the more important that when we embark on these new and exciting possibilities that our focus isn’t dominated by the ‘means to an end’. Instead we need to be clear that whatever shape we might take on, the only thing that really matters is the answer to the killer question ‘did we make any difference?’

We know that children, young people, parents and carers really don’t care about these things. They just want to be listened to so that they are able to build meaningful and trusting relationships, and can build the necessary capability to become more resilient and resourceful.

So about a year ago in Dorset the time had come to get back to basics and support our frontline practitioners to put the ‘human’ back into what is after all a human service. Underpinned by the application of Mark Friedman’s Outcomes Based Accountability, and learning from the Leeds approach, we have identified ten outcome related ‘obsessions’ with a particular focus on rising rates of children in care and children subject to a child protection plan. We are reaching out to practitioners and managers to properly understand the story behind the trends and most importantly how we might ‘turn the curve’ or improve practice to make more of a difference to children’s lives. This month 6 of the curves are showing evidence of improvement and the number of children leaving local authority care to live in suitable accommodation has improved from 72% to 90%.

Uniting around outcomes rather than services is also beginning to transform the conversation we are having with our partners. At a recent Local Safeguarding Children’s Board development day in Dorset we all agreed to focus on reducing the numbers of children in care and children subject to a child protection plan because we know that we cannot face these huge challenges on our own. To ensure we see this challenge from both ends of the continuum, the Children’s Trust are developing a new children and young people’s plan which will hopefully take the same focus and get the system working harder at developing a prevention mind-set, across everything we do. To deliver this strategy we are creating children zones as prevention places using the analysis of factors to predict children who are most at risk of poor outcomes, alongside those that determine success, to influence our collective impact. We are also beginning to reach out to local communities to have a different conversation with families about their role in improving the lives of children and young people.

As part of this work operationally we have launched this month our Reinvigorating Social Work programme and positively we have had 100% take up of places. This evaluated programme linked also to a new recruitment campaign, and to help practitioners and their frontline managers be clearer about what a good outcome looks for individual children; how we will know we have improved lives and how direct work can be the means to achieve better results. The whole programme is known as Forward Together for Children and will run till 2020. We are trying to remain focussed on the right things and trying hard not to let go of the belief that ‘prevention is better cure’

What is really exciting is that this outcomes programme has become owned by the whole council for all Dorset residents! We have now agreed the Dorset outcomes framework and are implementing a major culture change programme. We hope that this will make a huge difference to the lives of children, young people and families living in the local community.

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