Systems and partnerships

There were two social workers, a nurse, and a magistrate sitting in a bar…. don’t worry this isn’t the start of a bad joke, but rather how I spent my Saturday evening and how the conversation inevitably involved how each of our respective worlds were under pressure.

This made me think about the ‘systems’ we all live and work in, and how everything is connected to everything else. We hear (almost daily) of pressures - whether it be in the NHS, the justice system, the care system…I could go on. This can lead us to believe that each system is independent of the other, certainly the media often portrays it as such, and take us down the ‘silo thinking’ route.

Locally our children’s health colleagues are under huge pressure, mainly as a consequence of staffing capacity coupled with increasing demand. Recently, this came to a head following some poor communication where the relevant DCSs hadn’t been informed of some fundamental priority decisions taken by health colleagues which affected SEND and services of looked after children. Whilst the first reaction may well have been huge frustration (it was!), this quickly moved into looking at the issue as a system who can support each other and move from an either/or, to a both/and approach. This shift is vital if we are to work constructively through issues as a system, rather than seeing them as an individual agency issue which they need to sort out.

On a related note, recently I spent a day with my corporate management team on our new corporate plan and budget planning – I know how to have fun! As a fairly new DCS, this made me think about my role as a whole system player and shaping partnerships from an internal point of view. The internal system and collaborative partnerships are the only way we are going to successfully address the pressures we are facing as a council. Our workforce, as a system, is vital in rising to these challenges and reminding corporate colleagues that ‘it’s about the people in the place’ – which has been a bit of a mantra of mine. This brings me back to partnerships.

The strength of our partnerships is perhaps more important now than it ever has been. There are interesting times ahead, with potential risks but also opportunities – the integrated care systems, the independent review of children’s social care to name a couple. One thing is certain though, our systems leadership will be at the forefront of sustaining a positive future for children’s services.



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