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The Winning Team

That’s Leicester isn’t it? A 5000-1 shot and they did it! I can’t help but draw parallels with our work in children’s services you know. Against the odds our teams continue to deliver for children, young people and their families, day in, day out. I say against the odds as there is a decline in funding year on year whilst demands are increasing, with Cafcass reporting a 13% augmentation in care proceedings nationally over the last year. Without fundamental reform, the prognosis for the sector is bleak and resultantly, many of us are now consumed with service re-design and developing new models of delivery to ensure that our services are fit for purpose in the medium to longer term. In my view, there are three key lessons we can learn from the achievements of Leicester City Football Club (FC):


Irrespective of industry, service or sport, effective leadership remains integral to driving continuous improvement. Small victories lead to big success and Leicester City FC’s manager, Claudio Ranieri, used this mantra as his guiding principle. For leaders in children’s services, given the complexity of our work this approach can reap rewards for us too. Improvements cannot be sustained overnight but we can set short-term achievable goals, which serve to improve life chances for children and as a result, galvanise our workforce. Empowering others to deliver as Ranieri has, we can use Cooperrider’s (1987) ‘Appreciative Inquiry’ model to celebrate success and motivate staff to surpass expectations.


Leicester City FC has exemplified the power of a great team ethic. There are no big stars but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In our world the team must extend to elected members, our corporate colleagues and our partners, to include health, police; voluntary and dare I say private sectors. In the very best children’s services up and down the country you will find that teams are highly effective and partnerships are strong. Whilst we cannot pay footballer salaries we can treat our staff like the heroes they truly are. This is how we build capacity across the system to ensure that children are protected and make a successful transition into adulthood. Whilst the system is in danger of becoming increasingly fragmented, holding true to an unwavering team ethos will help ensure all our efforts are coalesced in improving outcomes for our children and young people.


As the season wore on the community really got behind Leicester City FC. This spurred them on to become the most unlikely champions in premier league history. There is no reason our communities should not get behind their children’s services, is there? ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ – it does. The DfE’s current campaign, appealing for people within communities to report safeguarding concerns is timely. With around 69,500 children in care and a further circa 370,000 children subject to statutory social care intervention living at home, it is wholly unrealistic to expect children’s social workers to protect them all, all of the time. Safeguarding children is everyone’s responsibility and I think it’s time to educate stakeholders across all communities, including the media, with regard to this moral imperative.

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