Yorkshire & Humber Regional Update - December 2019

The Yorkshire & Humber Regional Update

Work Plan

The 2019 work plan for sector-led improvement is being progressed and monitored. It has a particular emphasis on:

• Addressing key regional priorities including quality and sufficiency of placements

• Customised support for individual LAs with greatest need (front door health checks/every LA a PIP)

• An enhanced role for CXs and lead members through the Children’s Improvement Board

• A slimmed down self-assessment process

• Introduction of quarterly reporting using a web-based platform.

Regional Priorities

There has been a particular emphasis on quality and sufficiency of placements, including increased regional investment in a refreshed regional commissioning framework and a commitment to regular compilation and analysis of sufficiency information.

Quarterly Performance Reporting

The new arrangements are now in place. The report for Q2 was produced in early November. We are utilising ‘Tableau’, a web-based solution which is offering greater reporting flexibility. Further work is being undertaken on inclusion of workforce related indicators around caseload/ vacancies/ agency staff and experience.

Governance

There are new terms of reference for our Children’s Improvement Board with increased expectations of lead members and chief executives, giving it a more assertive role. Membership has been extended to include the LGA and there are further reflections on how best to engage the DfE.

Scrutiny and Challenge

Front door health checks (FDHC) have been introduced in 2019. A business process has been developed and teams comprising of staff with a deep understanding of the front door at various levels have been recruited to undertake the checks. We are aiming to complete six health checks in 2019/20, the first two of these in January 2020.

A business process for children’s mental health (CMH) peer challenge has been updated to ensure JTAI compatibility. This is in the process of being piloted in one LA area and will be evaluated in January 2020.

Our annual self-evaluation process has commenced. All LAs are engaged in completing a slimmed down self-assessment schedule which encompasses an expanded signatures of risk section. A regional event in January will enable each LA to receive peer scrutiny and challenge of their self-assessment.

Lead Member Network

There is an active lead member network which meets bi-monthly. Our most recent meeting was a joint one with lead members from the North East, which both groups agreed will be repeated annually.

Every LA a PIP

DfE funding has enabled us to pilot an approach which provides some financial support for LAs (other than PiPs) that exceed normal expectations in the provision of brokered support to others. The model is based on the premise that all LAs have the potential to provide improvement support to others. Our intention is to wrap a coordinated package of support around one or more LAs, drawing on PiP and other regional support. We have commenced activity with one LA and are in discussions with another. Scoping conversations are being led by PIP DCSs to draw upon their experience of negotiating improvement support to others.


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West Midlands Regional Update - December 2019

The West Midlands Regional Update

Children’s Improvement Board

Regional representatives (including lead members, chief executives and the DCS regional Chair, Helen Riley) embraced the opportunity on the 13 November 2019 to speak to the national Children’s Improvement Board and share our improvement journey as a region to date taking them through the roadmap of our priorities, a copy of which is available here. Our input was well received.

Regional Improvement and Innovation Alliance

The 14 directors of children’s services and three children’s trusts chief executives have confirmed their financial commitment to WMCS over the next 3 years. This followed an exercise led by Mutual Ventures which lead to an options appraisal presented to the network in September. The DCS network then confirmed their preferred future structure for WMCS which is a more formal, legally binding agreement to ensure shared liabilities. The new structure includes those aspects of the FutureSocial programme that the DCS network wants to pursue and an ongoing relationship with the Teaching Partnership.

NAAS

The NAAS regional phase 2 is now in full swing with growing numbers of social workers and their managers undertaking the assessment and receiving the recognition. The learning curve around capacity remains challenging both in getting councils and trusts to plan ahead so we avoid a ‘bottleneck’ at the end and working closely with Mott McDonald, (now confirmed for the continuation of the NAAS programme), to put on sufficient assessment centres.

SEND Regional Network

The DCS for Birmingham now leads the network focusing on three priorities:

• Being Ofsted ready

• High needs pressures

• Sharing best practice.

Presently the region has too many ‘Written Statements of Action’ and is determined to improve on performance across the region as a whole.

Education and Skills Network

The DCS network finally met with the Regional Schools Commissioner in October. The Education and Skills Network will now develop the relationship and agree on a mutual agenda. There will be an annual review with the DCS network to reflect on performance.

Regional Commissioning Hub

Recruitment to the hub roles is underway, a work-plan is being developed to ensure that the hub is focussed, from day one, on delivering the region’s strategic commissioning objective; better management of the market-place through the collaborative buying power of the councils and trusts leading to significant savings and improved quality for all.

Successful Bids

We were successful with two of the three applications for the Fostering Sufficiency Grant.

The LGA continues to support the region with our RIIA activity.

DCS Networking

The annual DCS residential programme took place on 26 and 27 November 2019, with a mixture of key speaker inputs and detailed group work aimed at reviewing regional priorities and strengthening our alliance.

LGA Lead Members Meetings (14 November 2019)

The region’s close relationship with the LGA continues. Following the election of new lead members in the May elections we supported their lead member training by sharing our RIIA journey.


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South West Regional Update - December 2019

The South West Regional Update

Regional Leadership Development Programme

The Staff College is delivering, with partners, a Leadership Development Programme for aspirant assistant directors in the South West region. The aim of the programme is to improve the strategic leadership skills of up to fifty managers who are the direct reports to assistant directors in each of the region’s fifteen local authorities. The first cohort of 21 commenced in October 2019. The programme will also include a coaching offer to participants.

Self-Assessment Peer Challenge

The date for the self-assessment peer challenge for 2019 will be Friday 6 December. The self-assessment framework has been reviewed with an additional self-assessment on ‘risk factors’ included. All local authorities are participating.

Strategic Children’s Sector-Led Improvement Group – RIIA Board

The Strategic Group, which has representation from the region’s chief executives, lead members, directors of children’s services and the LGA, has now become the Regional Improvement and Innovation Alliance board.

A leadership summit bringing together the chief executives, lead members and directors of children’s services from all of the region’s local authorities is planned for 12 March 2020. The leadership summit will review progress of the alliance and agree plans for 2021 and beyond.

Thematic Peer Challenge Programme for 2019/20

The programme for the coming year gives local authorities the option to choose the focus for their challenge from the themes that Ofsted use for focussed visits and JTAIs. There was a peer challenge workshop on 7 November in Taunton to assist local authorities in their preparation. Partners and themes are being confirmed, the programme is due to start early in the New Year and finish by July 2020.

Upcoming Regional Events

The following events have been planned:

• A regional SEND conference on 4 and 5 December

• An LGA run finance workshop on 5 December

• A regional Research in Practice event to explore practice in complex safeguarding to be held in Exeter on 5 February 2020.

Further regional workshops in the New Year include ‘Developing a more effective response to risk in adolescents’ and ‘Trauma informed practice’. A regional event to recognise ‘World social work day’ in March to be hosted in Bristol is also being planned.

Commissioning Group Project

The regional commissioning group has developed a project, led by Bath and North East Somerset, to gather intelligence through a ‘market position statement’ on the sufficiency of in-house fostering placements in all of the South West local authorities. The project has gained some external funding from the LGA. A draft report has been produced and it is planned that the ‘market position’ will be presented to representatives from all local authorities at a regional meeting in the New Year.


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South East Regional Update - December 2019

The South East Regional Update

Sector-Led Improvement

• The Regional Improvement Plan for 2019-20 with detailed annexes was launched at a regional summit on 22 March 2019

• The plan includes a £130,000 contribution from DfE alongside £162,500 subscription income, and an agreement for quarterly data sharing on the 18 nationally agreed datasets

• The plan has 10 priorities:

Actions that will address practice issues:

1. Collaborate to improve provision for complex LAC

2. Collaborate on increasing in-house foster placements

3. Collaborate on ways to promote educational inclusion with SE19 SEND group

4. Share and develop new models of social care practice that fit the times

5. Develop the regional quality assurance capacity

Actions that will develop leadership capacity and staff resources:

6. Build leadership capacity across the region

7. Workforce matters; recruitment and retention; agency

Actions that will underpin the cycle of self-assessment and peer challenge:

8. Data benchmarking

9. Annual self-assessment and triad peer challenge

Action to address the funding gap:

10. Increase political lobbying to address the funding gap

• The Plan follows a non-stigmatising approach to improvement: The assumption is that there is excellent practice in all authorities; and that all authorities have improvement needs

• Recently we have:

  • Made excellent progress on our complex LAC project
  • Begun our Nov-Jan cycle of triad peer challenges (13 November)
  • Published The Staff College’s needs analysis for leadership development in the region
  • Decided to invite the DfE RISL to our sector-led steering group (with lead member and CE reps present) and cease separate data liaison meetings
  • Commissioned a review of the Memorandum of Co-operation on agency staff employment, which has recently come under pressure
  • Launched new projects on Increasing In-house Fostering (DCS sponsor: Pinaki Ghoshal, Brighton and Hove); Improving the Quality of Audit (DCS sponsor: Steve Crocker/Stuart Ashley, Hampshire and IoW); Developing models of Social Work (DCS sponsor: Nikki Edwards, Bracknell Forest).

For further details go to www.seslip.co.uk or contact the Programme Manager Richard Tyndall 07880-787007 richard.tyndall@richardtyndall.co.uk.


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North West Regional Update - December 2019

The North West Regional Update

Quality Assurance: Practice and Principles

Following our first Quality Assurance Summit delivered in partnership with Ofsted earlier this year, we are developing a range of resources to support local authorities and their partners to maintain and improve their approach to QA in children’s social care. We agree that effective quality assurance has become an increasingly important measure of a local authority’s ability to evidence the impact of services for children and families. There are many different approaches across the region in how leaders secure this assurance, and this has informed our ‘practice and principles’ resource to summarise some of the measures most utilised by authorities. Drawing on good local practice and input from the inspectorate, the resource highlights the following:

• The central role of audit, including innovative ways of understanding the quality and consistency of practice

• The use of practice weeks to create opportunities for senior leaders to observe practice and make links between strategy and practice on the frontline

• Effective communication of the findings of QA activity helping to embed learning and encourage ownership

• Explicit links between training and development and QA to support wider culture change, and determine the impact

• The importance of the role of leaders in QA activity at all levels across partnerships.

We are further developing this workstream through an appraisal of externally commissioned QA activity and the commissioning of a ‘challenge toolkit’ to support targeted sector-led scrutiny. For more details or a copy of the NWADCS Quality Assurance: practice and principles resource, please contact Samantha Sirisambhand, Policy and Performance Manager, NWADCS at samantha.sirisambhand@stockport.gov.uk

Peer Challenge for Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND) Local Areas

SEND peer challenges are an opportunity for local areas to understand whether they are achieving the best outcomes for children and young people with SEND by reflecting on their progress, in the implementation and embedding of SEND reforms in order to support improvement. Based on a methodology co-produced with parent/carer representatives, the flexible approach to peer scrutiny will, in some cases, aim to support readiness for SEND local area inspections or re-visits. In others it will support the post inspection review of continuous improvement and progress in relation to SEND. While a core model of two days on site will be the norm, there are also opportunities for a differentiated approach e.g. a desk top review of the local area SEND self-evaluation - ‘readiness check’ for re-visit. Piloted in two areas (one awaiting inspection, one awaiting revisit), a final process has been agreed and training for peers took place on 29 November. Ultimately the aim is to achieve better outcomes for children and young people experiencing SEND across the North West.

For a copy of the North West SEND Peer Challenge toolkit or details of our training approach, please contact Paul Bunker, Head of Children’s Sector Led Improvement, NWADCS at paul.bunker@stockport.gov.uk.

Children Educated Out of School

In response to the recently reviewed elective home education guidance, the Timpson Review of exclusions and our own data analysis, we have embarked on a coordinated programme of activity to review our practice and systems for children educated outside of school settings. Whilst still in its initial stages, we have engaged with Ofsted’s unregulated schools team as well as relevant local partners to identify a series of priority areas and inform the initial development of a ‘children educated out of school: practice and principles resource’. We have identified the following workstreams to be addressed:

• Identification including definitions and data sharing

• Oversight and monitoring

• Suitability including intervention and enforcement

• Safeguarding

• Specific groups including looked after children, children with SEND, and gypsy/Roma/traveller children

• Understanding exclusion particularly the use of ‘nurture’ or ‘inclusion’ units.

We are keen to engage with other regions in this area and happy to share our forming work. If you are interested in working collaboratively across regions, please contact Paul Bunker, NWADCSpaul.bunker@stockport.gov.uk


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North East Regional Update - December 2019

The North East Regional Update

Quality Assurance and Performance

We have established a new regional QA and Performance group as part of the NE ADCS network. The aim is to strengthen the role and impact of QA and performance activity in sector-led improvement across children’s services and create better join-up. An early task for the group will be to support and add rigour to the annual ‘Directors’ Challenge’ process.

Elective Home Education

The regional education group is carrying out some work to create a regional picture of LA approaches to monitoring elective home education. We are also hoping to carry out some regional analysis of LAs’ responses to the ADCS EHE survey.

Extra-Familial Harm and Exploitation

The Children’s Safeguarding Network is undertaking a mapping exercise to understand the current arrangements in place across the region to respond to concerns relating to extra-familial harm and exploitation. The exercise aims to understand strategic and operational responses to CSE, child criminal exploitation (including county lines), youth violence, gangs and modern slavery/trafficking in each local authority area, with a view to identifying opportunities to strengthen practice.

Agency Social Work MoU

We have carried out a review of our MoU relating to agency social workers, which has been in place for over two years. As a result of the review we have revised the capped rates, incorporated the use of project teams into the agreement and strengthened the escalation process.

Care Leavers and Council Tax Exemption

In response to a request from our Regional Children in Care Council, we are exploring council tax exemptions for care leavers and how this might apply across LA boundaries for care leavers who no longer live in their ‘home’ local authority area.

Applied Research Collaboration

The North East and North Cumbria Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) is now live. This research network, funded by the National Institute of Health Research for five years, is a partnership between HEIs and a range of care organisations which aims to improve outcomes in health and social care through high quality research on local priority issues.

DCS changes

The region welcomed Kathryn Boulton who took up the post of DCS in Redcar and Cleveland at the end of September.


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Greater London Regional Update - December 2019

The Greater London Regional Update

The London Innovation and Improvement Alliance (LIIA)

During 2019, London has made significant progress in the development of its Innovation and Improvement Alliance. Notably: –

• All 33 London authorities are returning data to enable quarterly benchmarking

• Every London authority has contributed to sector-led improvement work through peer challenge or through involvement with one of the thematic groups

• The first peer review has been undertaken, on adolescent safeguarding

• The ALDCS LIIA website has been launched

• Thematic priority groups are now well-established with developing work plans across all four areas: finance and resources; vulnerable adolescents; workforce; and special educational needs and disabilities.

An annual summit is planned for March 2020.

Funding Pressures in Children’s Social Care and High Needs

London DCSs are working with London councils, chief executives and finance directors to understand better the financial pressures facing children’s social care budgets and the High Needs Block. A members event was held in September to share the findings of work undertaken and shape London’s priorities for collaborative working. For the next phase, a working group is being set up to look at high cost placements, workforce and collaboration with the NHS in London in respect of achieving consistency in the health component of EHCPs.

Admissions

London primary schools received 96,598 applications in total this year, a 0.08% decrease compared to last year, according to figures published by the Pan-London Admissions Board. 97 per cent of children due to start primary school in London this September have been offered a place at a preferred school. There is growing concern about decreasing rolls at primary schools in some parts of London although this year’s numbers show a relatively small overall decrease. ALDCS continues to support boroughs with places planning, to ensure that all boroughs can meet rising need, particularly in secondary and special schools, as well as cope with reductions in demand at primary in some boroughs.

New Multi-Agency Safeguarding Arrangements

In order to maintain a level of consistency across London and to facilitate communication across local areas, the new arrangements are either called Safeguarding Children Partnerships or Safeguarding Children Boards. Links to the new arrangements are available here. The London Safeguarding Children Board has agreed to have an executive of the three safeguarding partners at a pan-London level and ALDCS is represented on this executive. Engagement with the wider partnership will continue but in a different format. However, there are delays to implementing these changes as a result of difficulties securing senior level attendance from police and health services at the executive.

Children in Custody

A multi-agency working group, chaired by a DCS, is working with the MPS to reduce the number of children held in police custody. The group shares data on police requests for accommodation with local authorities on a regular basis. This sharing of data has enabled feedback on cases between custody suites and emergency duty teams thereby improving the police and local authority response to children held in custody. A protocol for London, which supplements the Home Office Concordat on children held in police custody, went live on 10 June. ALDCS has also asked local authority commissioners across London to develop approaches to the co-commissioning of non-secure alternative accommodation for children denied bail – there is insufficient demand for places for any one borough to address this issue.

There are pilots across a number of London boroughs to develop the safeguarding response to children when they are arrested. Examples of approaches taken include: custody suites contacting children’s social care as soon as a child arrives in custody; children’s social care visiting every child in custody in order to carry out an assessment and employing youth workers in custody suites to work with children and their families as they are arrested.


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East Midlands Regional Update - December 2019

The East Midlands Regional Update

This quarter has been an interesting one for the East Midland region as inspection processes have had a quite noticeable impact upon our levels of collaborative activity. Over three quarters of the region’s local authorities have either received ILACS in this period or have been heavily involved in follow-up from recent inspections or preparation for forthcoming ones. All of this consumes significant leadership capacity.

As reported previously, the EM RIIA plan is used as the coordinating framework for almost all of our joint work between LAs in support of children’s services. LAs are currently in the process of refreshing/updating their regional self-assessments and will submit them for the scrutiny of our LA-triad peer challenge process in the new year. This annual cycle will update the plan of our collaborative work to:

• Identify brokering priorities for LA-to-LA support

• Establish joint work opportunities to address common themes

• Create focus for the priority themes of our regional networks and groups.

No substantial new work streams have therefore been instigated within this quarter, but on going activity continues on a wide range of fronts, including:

• Collaborative price management controls for purchasing from the independent market

• Development of a sub-regional framework for placement procurement

• Development of effective practice and assessment relating to child exploitation

• Re-commitment to tackle the quality and price of agency social work

• Mapping the most effective practice/schemes that increase the supply of LA social workers

• Audit case moderation and joint quality assurance

• A new group and work-stream for service managers supporting care leavers

• Development of an Early Intervention Practitioner L4 Apprenticeship

• Training for IROs and CPC chairs in contextual safeguarding, modern slavery and care planning.

In the coming months we look forward to the contribution that will be made by:

• Sharing effective practice that develops in-house fostering

A series of good practice visits between LAs on their priority themes.


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Eastern Regional Update - December 2019

The Eastern Regional Update

Regional Self-Assessment and DCS Peer Challenge

• The 2019 annual self-assessment process concluded in June. A six-month status update challenge will be conducted before the end of the year and this will include a six-month data review

• A workshop has been held to review the template used for self-assessment to ensure that it remains current/relevant to changing needs.

Regional Priorities

• Regional priorities were agreed by the DCS group at the peer challenge event. A meeting is planned with the chairs of all the regional networking groups to disseminate the priority areas and establish each group’s contribution to them. The priority areas are:

  • Outcomes for children in need and early help
  • Children not in school and vulnerable learners
  • Serious youth violence
  • Managing the placement market through regional alliances
  • Middle and frontline leadership and management
  • Continual improvement through self-assessment
  • Peer challenge and review
  • Sharing good practice

• A regional conference was held in September to focus on the priority area of serious youth violence; this combined national, regional and local best practice. We continue to seek opportunities for further regional collaboration to tackle this issue

• A leadership and management training programme is being constructed by a regional working group in conjunction with The Staff College, targeting heads of service and team managers.

Peer Review and Inspection

• Peer reviews continue to provide challenge and support in targeted, thematic areas of service

• They have been undertaken across social care, education and SEND services with others planned for the coming year

• The focus of education service peer reviews, which are being conducted across the region, is on school exclusions.

Data Benchmarking

• The regular quarterly tartan rug report highlights comparative performance across all LAs in the region against a range of performance measures

• A performance benchmarking report for 2018/19 has been published for the region; it pulls together data from the tartan rug alongside nationally published data across children’s social care

• The next regional benchmarking exercise will focus on assessment factors.

Network Highlights

• The regular regional networks continue to be held, together with the re-establishment of a workforce, resourcing and development group for workforce leads across the region

• A regional conference has been held for the leaving care group with a focus on developing local offers

• The corporate parenting steering group (CPSG) is developing ideas for a regional conference on placement stability

A regional leaders’ event for chief execs, lead members and DCSs is being planned and is likely to be scheduled in early 2020.


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RS and SPI Policy Committees Update - December 2019

Resources & Sustainability and the Standards, Performance & Inspection Policy Committees

The Resources & Sustainability and the Standards, Performance & Inspection Policy Committees met jointly in London on Tuesday 24 September. Initially the group was joined by representatives from the DfE to discuss emerging plans for a family justice themed peer review which has grown out of some wider work undertaken by the Family Justice Board (FJB) exploring volume and variation in public law activity. The FJB believes that a new peer review could be an effective way of moving locally developed best practice around the system. The group noted that there is a lot of sector-led improvement activity already happening in regions and felt there would need to be a more distinct and defined offer in order to secure buy-in. It was felt a focus on neglect could add real value and that this should be discussed with regional improvement and innovation alliances directly (RIIAs).

The group was then joined by a consultant who is undertaking a piece of work for the LGA on out of area housing moves for people of all ages. Here there was a focus on the families of children and young people who are known to children’s social care to be ‘in need’, including those with no recourse to public funds. This growing practice is driven by the shortage of suitable and/or affordable houses in parts of the country and can lead to gaps in vital support and services. The LGA is exploring ways of encouraging the spread of best practice when moving families out of area alongside a potential notification system. The committee agreed this is an important issue which urgently needs addressing and noted that government departments, in particular the Home Office, are also responsible for moving families around the country. Further work will continue, and views are being sought from a wide range of stakeholders, including children’s services.

Next, the group discussed the sufficiency of care placements and the changing nature of both the fostering and residential markets as acquisitions and private equity investment become more commonplace. A lot of children’s homes and independent fostering providers are merging and at a faster rate than seen before. Beyond concerns about the level of risk building in this market and the impact a provider failing might have on children’s outcomes, other patterns are emerging which again are giving concern. For example, when independent fostering providers merge, their market share goes up but the number of foster carers appears to go down. For local authorities that are purchasing placements, this net loss to the system is keenly felt in terms of choice and cost. The group agreed we need to revisit these interlinked issues again in the future, particularly in relation to greater options for collaborative commissioning.

The final update on the day related to a brief overview of the government’s recently announced review of SEND. It was noted that the recent spending round announcement included an additional £700 million for local authorities to alleviate pressures on SEND budgets, this is some acknowledgement of the crisis in this provision but this not insubstantial sum will almost be entirely swallowed up by existing deficits. The group discussed some of the key themes and messages that would be helpful for the Association to play into engagements with the review team, this included bringing independent special schools into the state sector, greater oversight of pupil exclusions and a review of the contribution of health


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EA and HCAN Policy Committees Update - December 2019

Educational Achievement Policy Committee and Health, Care & Additional Needs Policy Committees

The Educational Achievement Policy Committee and the Health, Care & Additional Needs Policy Committees met jointly in Manchester on Friday 20 September. For the first item, the group was joined by Suzanne Lunn, Deputy Director for SEND at the DfE, to provide an update on national developments around SEND. There has been renewed focus in this area with various inquiries underway and the government has launched a SEND review which will look at a range of issues. The group stressed the importance of better join up at the national level between the DfE and DHSC and it is hoped that the SEND leadership board will help better connect the two departments in areas such as joint commissioning. The group also discussed the need for greater inclusivity in mainstream schools in supporting pupils with SEND and noted that MATs must be involved in any joint working or conversations to improve this. Suzanne explained that there is now a commitment to developing the new SEND code of practice by 2020 for implementation from April 2021.

Following this, Ian Lewis from NHS England joined the group to provide an update on the NHS Long-Term Plan with an overview of progress made to date and priorities for the future. As part of his update Ian reported that over 180 Mental Health Support Teams are in the process of being established; Local Transformation Plans will continue for at least another year; and there is a focus on extending current service models to create a better offer for 0-25 year olds that reaches across mental health services and does not just focus on transition periods. The group fed back that recruiting practitioners to keep pace with demand has been difficult in some areas. Further, our definition of the mental health workforce can differ from the NHS definition; we need to know where other roles fit into the system, such as Family Support Workers and SENCOs.

The group was then joined by Lynsey Burridge, NAVSH Chair, to discuss the role of the Virtual School Head (VSH) one year on since its remit was extended to support previously looked-after children. Lynsey explained that many VSHs have taken on extra responsibilities due to LA pressures but have not received additional resourcing and this has acted as a barrier to VSHs meeting their new duty. Going forward, the Children in Need review recommended further expansion of the role of the VSH to include children ever known to children’s social care. The group warned that there is a risk of ever expanding the cohort who are supported by the virtual school and we must be clear on the remit of the role.

Finally, the group was joined by Richard Caulfield from the Association of Colleges (AoC) to discuss some of the pressures in the FE sector, particularly in supporting vulnerable children and young people, some of whom may have been excluded from mainstream school. FE colleges share some of the same challenges as LAs, such as supporting young people who have SEND, are home educated, or have been in alternative provision. However, as colleges are funded to teach students for 15 hours per week, this can leave some young people who are vulnerable to youth violence and exploitation with significant amounts of free time during which they could potentially be exposed to risk. The group highlighted that a lack of funding for FE is a big issue for children’s services where there are clear common pressures; these do not stop at Year 11.

The group also discussed the first substantive draft of the ADCS health position paper, the Timpson Review of School Exclusions and links to SEND and received an update on ADCS discussions with the CVAA on the adoption inter-agency fee.


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WD and FCYP Policy Committee Update - December 2019

Workforce Development and the Families, Communities & Young People Policy Committees

The Workforce Development and the Families, Communities & Young People Policy Committees met jointly in London on Friday 27 September. The group was joined by Nicola McGeown, Principal Social Worker at East Sussex County Council, for the first item to speak about the use of social media in social work. East Sussex is developing a policy around this and Nicola noted that while they are focusing on safety online, the use of social media covers a range of areas which they are looking at, for example communication with young people and threats to social workers online. The group welcomed Nicola’s input in an area that is still being explored and noted that current publicly available guidance is not always relevant.

The group was then joined by Patrick Myers to discuss the Reducing Parental Conflict (RPC) programme and workforce aspirations. The programme is focused on co-parenting and eligibility for the programme has been widened so that an estimated 1.2 million children are currently eligible. Patrick explained that the role of the wider workforce in this space is key, particularly school staff. It is important that the workforce is able to adopt a relational approach to improve child outcomes through parental behaviours. The practitioner training module is important in achieving this; however, members of both committees expressed some concern over the quality of the training materials and the prescriptive nature of the training. Further, members were frustrated at what is seen as another example of a small amount of government funding for a single piece of work when long-term, sustainable funding is needed.

Next, the group was joined by Donna Molloy from the Early Intervention Foundation and Dr Maria Neophytou from Impetus to discuss the Youth Endowment Fund. They have received a £200m endowment from the Home Office to be spent over 10 years. Donna and Maria gave some context around the types of interventions that are effective in reducing parental conflict such as skills-based and family-focused programmes. The first funding round for 1-2-year grants opened at the end of May and closed on 23 July for projects looking to expand their interventions. The last funding round received a very high number of bids for grant applications with the majority coming from charities or social enterprises. Only 25 of the 446 bids were recommended to be taken further with successful bids announced in October. The group welcomed the funding for innovation work but again stressed the need for long-term, sustainable funding.

Other areas of discussion included serious youth violence and knife crime, an update on safeguarding reforms and statutory guidance for LAs providing youth work.


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Comment: ONS gender pay gap figures

Rachel Dickinson, ADCS President, said:

“Social workers fulfil an important role on behalf of society, they are at the heart of systems that protect children from harm and support families facing challenges, such as poverty, domestic abuse, poor parental mental health and substance misuse. It’s important that social workers are properly recognised and remunerated for their part in keeping vulnerable children and young people safe from harm. As leaders of children’s services we are committed to achieving a diverse workforce through encouraging more people well-suited to the role to choose social work as a career.”

ENDS


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Priorities for the next government

On the campaign trail for the general election we’ve heard politicians talking about all sorts of things from Brexit to investing in our NHS and schools (all important areas). However, I’m more interested in whether the next government will transform election rhetoric into reality by improving the day-to-day lives and outcomes of children and families.

In 2017, ADCS published ‘A country that works for all children’. It highlighted several policy issues from the impact of austerity to an increasingly fragmented approach to public services, overlaid with rising levels of child poverty that are cumulatively having a negative impact on children and families. Two years on, the messages in the paper remain relevant. The premise that ‘all children and families should be able to thrive, not just survive’ is something all our politicians should be able to get behind.

The following things need to be (very) early priorities for whoever forms the next government:

By 2022, the number of children living in poverty is set to increase to 5.2 million, the highest level since records began. The costs for children experiencing poverty are demonstrable and well-documented, poverty and inequality are intrinsically linked to poor health outcomes. But poverty is not inevitable, an ambitious national child poverty reduction strategy could reverse the trends of rising poverty and increasing inequalities in this country.

Prevention is better than cure, but it costs money. Although we welcome recent funding announcements including a new three-four year settlement for schools, we still await a sustainable settlement for local government. Since 2010, our funding has been cut in half yet need has not. We are being forced to make counterintuitive decisions like cutting services that communities value and reduce future demand e.g. children’s centres and libraries. A preventative approach to improving children’s outcomes must come from the top, by this I mean central government must fund local authorities properly and sustainably to enable us to keep children safe and to provide support to children and their families before they reach crisis point. Children’s services are not, nor should we be, a blue light service.

Putting children at the heart of all policy and spending decisions benefits us all by creating happier, healthier communities and reducing future demand for the NHS and adult social care too. A greater focus on wellbeing and resilience in schools will similarly have benefits inside the classroom and beyond.

Jenny Coles is ADCS Vice President 2019/20 and DCS in Hertfordshire County Council.

This column was first published on the LGC website on 21 November 2019 - link


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Comment: Latest DfE children looked after statistics

Rachel Dickinson, ADCS President, said:

“The figures show that local authorities continue to safeguard and protect children and young people in their local areas, despite facing a 50% reduction in our budgets since 2010 and significantly increased demand. The statistics don’t show the many cases where local authorities are working intensively with children and families to enable them to stay together safely. Our ability to work with children and families at the earliest opportunity to prevent them from reaching crisis point is being diminished by an estimated £3.1 billion funding gap in children’s services by 2025. Reductions in other public services, child poverty and increasing instances of domestic abuse and poor parental mental health in our communities is also impacting on this goal. We still await a long-term funding settlement that transcends parliamentary cycles. The next government must recognise that the benefits of investing in children expand beyond the individual to society as a whole.”

ENDS


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Comment: Principal Social Worker survey

Jenny Coles, Vice President of the ADCS, said:

“It’s fair to say the children and family principal social worker, or PSW, role is slightly different in each local area, partly as a result of central permissiveness and partly as a result of the local context, from the size of the authority and the workforce structure to how closely children’s and adult services work together. In essence this advanced practitioner role is about promoting good practice, providing a clear link between the frontline and senior leaders as well as influencing the development of social work practice. PSWs are committed to making a difference, I know they do this in many local areas and this is reflected in the findings of this survey.”

Ends


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Changes to Statutory Youth Work Guidance - Consultation Response

ADCS response to consultation on changes to statutory youth work guidance

View response


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Reflections on the Children Acts 1989 & 2004

This year marks 30 years and 15 years respectively since the Children Acts 1989 and 2004 received Royal Assent. The 1989 Act marked a turning point in children’s rights legislation in England and Wales. It introduced comprehensive change concerning the welfare of children. Central to this was the idea that children’s wishes and feelings must be taken into account when making decisions that affect them. Traditionally, parents were seen to have rights over their children, but the Act reversed this stating that children had free standing right. These welcome child centred principles remain at the heart of all local authorities do.

It is important to celebrate the successes of the Acts. Children are safer now than they were 30 years ago for example. However, many of the challenges faced by children, their families and the services they rely on today could not have been foreseen by the legislators such as the levels of pressure currently in the system or the use of Section 20 voluntary accommodation arrangements for unaccompanied migrant and asylum-seeking children arriving in this country with no family ties.

Over the past decade, the preventative principles underpinning the ‘89 Act have been eroded by austerity, chronically underfunded children’s services and rising need. We continue to call on government to work with us to reclaim and resource the core principles of prevention in the Act, backed by adequate new funding.

The 2004 Act went further to create, amongst other things, the concept of a clear, single point of professional accountability for children and young people’s outcomes in the director of children’s services (DCS). A single individual uniquely centred in the local place in which they work, to bring together different parts of the systems in the best interests of children. It also provided the legal underpinning for the Every Child Matters outcomes framework.

To mark the anniversary of the Acts we have invited the ADCS President, Vice President and Past Presidents to reflect on the Children Acts of 1989 and 2004, the successes and what has changed since they became law.

View the reflections


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President’s Speech NCASC 2019 - Press Release

ADCS President’s address at the National Children and Adult Services Conference 2019

Addressing delegates at the National Children and Adult Services Conference in Bournemouth Rachel Dickinson, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), today said:

On the Children Acts 1989 and 2004

“The potent combination of austerity; rising demand; fewer resources and a government whose attention for almost four years has been largely focussed elsewhere, endangers the ambitious intentions of the Acts. There is still much to do if we are to become a country that works for all children. In this context, the system leadership role of the DCS to ensure a relentless focus on the lived experiences of children and to speak loudly for change, has never been more important.”

On funding

“We are still waiting for a long-term funding settlement. I don’t just mean a three or even a five-year comprehensive spending review. I’m talking about the need to invest substantially and bravely in children’s services – investment that transcends parliamentary cycles and general election rhetoric. We must move away from the current piecemeal approach to funding. Small, ad hoc, short-term pots of funding from central government in response to single issues, made available for some but not all local areas, are particularly unhelpful.”

On demand pressures

“Increasing pressures in children’s and adult social care need to be funded properly, but not at the expense of other key local government services that help create prosperous, independent and resilient communities. These wellbeing and Place-based services that improve the lives of local people, helping them to live a good life, as well as prevent demand growing exponentially in our social care services…Local authorities can, and do, join these services up locally to deliver improved outcomes for communities, but we need the right, long-term resources to continue doing this.”

On the education system

“I strongly believe that the government’s education reforms have completely lost sight of inclusion. Let’s not forget that state-funded schools are community assets. The new school inspection framework is shining a light on the use of formal and informal exclusions and will hopefully help to turn the tide on rising exclusions…but I think it’s time to review head teachers’ powers to exclude pupils unchecked.”

On the role of private equity in care placements

“…the entry of private equity into the provision of fostering and residential care placements is a relatively recent development and a source of considerable worry for ADCS members. The level of profit being generated by some companies from the care of vulnerable children…is difficult to reconcile as austerity continues to bite in local government. However, the level of risk now apparent in the system is my overriding concern.”

On unregulated settings

“The use of unregulated and of unregistered placement settings is rising because of the lack of placement capacity in registered and regulated provision. There has been a clear lack of appetite amongst successive governments to lead a joined-up response to help local authorities collectively to provide and commission flexible responses that can meet the most complex adolescent need. Many councils are investing in the recruitment and retention of in-house foster carers. This is a big task that government could help with – but, as the age profile of our children in care population changes, we will need different kinds of placements.”

On care leavers

“…over 100 councils in England already exempt their care leavers from paying council tax until age 25. If your council has not yet made the decision can I urge you as good corporate parents to give it some serious thought as you set your budgets locally. If every council in England was to do this, then care leavers who live out of borough, or even out of region, would not be disadvantaged by their postcode.”

On the new ADCS health position paper

“Tomorrow, ADCS will launch a position paper on children’s health and wellbeing. That paper describes children’s health as being poorly served, there are some shocking failures to deliver timely health care, linked to both demand (poverty and the stresses of modern life) and service failure…the health service is simply not doing well enough for children.”

ENDS

Notes:

• The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) Ltd is the professional leadership association for Directors of Children’s Services and their senior management teams in England.

• The full speech can be found here

• The ADCS Elective Home Education 2019 survey mentioned in the speech can be found here

‘A health care system that works for all children’, the new ADCS position paper mentioned in the speech, will be published on www.adcs.org.uk on Thursday 21 November.


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ADCS President’s Speech - NCASC 2019

ADCS President 2019/20, Rachel Dickinson, delivered her keynote speech to the National Children and Adult Services Conference on 20 November 2019 in Bournemouth.

Download speech (pdf)



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Comment: Allegations of abuse and neglect in custodial settings

Jenny Coles, ADCS Vice President, said:

“Children and young people in custody are vulnerable, many have complex and overlapping health and social care needs. It’s vital that these children are kept safe and that staff in custodial settings are trained and equipped with specialist skills and knowledge, including in the safe use of restraint, to properly support the children in their care. Restraint should only be used where absolutely necessary and should be reasonable and proportionate to the circumstances; it should never be used to deliberately inflict pain on children. Local authorities take our safeguarding duties very seriously and will investigate all allegations received. Local authorities work with partners right across the safeguarding and youth justice system from police, probation and health services to education settings and urgently require the necessary levers to address welfare concerns arising in secure settings to ensure that children’s needs are properly met. We’re in discussion with the YJB about the health, safety and wellbeing of children and young people in the youth justice system as well as the oversight and governance of these nationally commissioned services operating in local areas.”

ENDS


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Comment on the use of data in children’s social care

Steve Crocker, Chair of the ADCS Standards, Performance & Inspection Policy Committee, said:

“The intelligent use of data is really important to local authorities. This report rightly highlights the burden placed on us in terms of national data collections, the significant lag in the publication of this data impacting on its usefulness and our diminishing capacity to collect and analyse data as specialist staff continue to be lost as a result of falling budgets. However, what is missing from this analysis is an insight into the work done locally via regional improvement and innovation alliances, such as benchmarking and peer challenge, and other sector-led innovations like the ‘children looked after analysis project.’ This project brings together social care and education data in real time to allow virtual school heads to put in place bespoke support to help children in care achieve better outcomes and its development was sector-led. Projects such as this highlight the value of data to authorities that can be nimble and work in real time with accurate data to improve the quality of services to, and outcomes for, vulnerable children.”

ENDS


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Comment: Secretary of State announces support for care leavers

Commenting on investment and programmes to improve support for care leavers Jenny Coles, ADCS Vice President, said:

“Young people leaving care have to start living independently and navigating adulthood much earlier than their peers and may not have the family or support network to help them. Councils are doing lots of things to support care leavers from council tax exemptions to creating apprenticeships to support them into employment. The investment and programmes announced today will help to make a difference in the lives of our care leavers, the creation of a Care Leaver Covenant Board will helpfully bring a national cross government focus to the issues affecting care leavers. Initiatives such as Staying Put and Staying Close are welcome and help to prepare young people for independence, however, there is currently a shortage of foster carers and more children coming into care, so our need for carers continues to grow. A national foster carer recruitment strategy would undoubtably help with this. “

ENDS


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Comment: Education Select Committee’s SEND report

Rachel Dickinson, ADCS President, said:

“This report shines a light on some of the systemic challenges that local authorities face as we work hard to implement a complex and underfunded system of reforms. The 2014 reforms rightly raised expectations, required partners to join up holistically to meet the needs of children and young people and extended support from birth to 25 years. However, children’s services were not adequately funded to meet these expanded duties.

“Despite record levels of spending in the SEND system there is growing frustration and dissatisfaction too. This is because funding alone will not solve the system-level challenges we now face in meeting our statutory duties. Issues include: a school accountability system focused on academic attainment above inclusion which means some pupils with low level needs are being pushed out of the mainstream system into costlier, often independent specialist provision as well as the lack of a national workforce strategy. Having the right workforce to meet the needs of children and young people is essential and therapists are an important part of this, but there are shortages elsewhere in the wider workforce that act as a barrier to achieving an inclusive education system.

“Under the reforms local partners are required to develop joint commissioning arrangements to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND. However, it can be challenging for local authorities to engage health partners at a local level. ADCS believes the Departments for Education and Health and Social Care should lead by example, particularly in relation to funding arrangements to reflect their joint duties towards this cohort.

“We are pleased the Committee supports the need for local authorities to open new maintained special schools and welcomes the greater focus on inclusion in the new school inspections regime – the level and quality of SEN support should be a limiting factor in terms of inspection outcomes. Any future inspection framework to measure how local areas are meeting the needs of children and young people with SEND needs to clearly define what good looks like to facilitate the spread of good practice.

“Our shared endeavour must be on improving the experiences and outcomes of all children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities and ensuring no child is left behind.”

ENDS


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Comment: Adoption Support Fund

Charlotte Ramsden, Chair of the ADCS Health, Care and Additional Needs Policy Committee, said:

“The Adoption Support Fund allows children who are adopted and those cared for by special guardians and their families to access a range of valuable help and support so that they can overcome any challenges they might have and the whole family can thrive. While we welcome the news from the Secretary of State that the Adoption Support Fund will be extended to 2021 and that additional investment in Regional Adoption Agencies will enable increased recruitment of adopters, we still don’t know the future of the Fund beyond next year. It’s important that the Fund is sustainable in the long term to ensure funding of vital support services that families rely on. Feedback from those who have received support shows that it is valued and necessary. The Fund will hopefully encourage more people who want to adopt to do so and know that support will be available.”

ENDS


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ADCS response to the Queen’s Speech

Jenny Coles, ADCS Vice President, said:

“It’s disappointing that the Queen’s speech did not provide long term solutions to many issues affecting children and families today, such as child poverty. For almost four years now ‘Brexit’ has consumed the time, focus and energy of national politicians at the expense of addressing some serious domestic social policy issues. We would urge the government to put children and families at the top of their agenda.

“We are pleased the government has reiterated its commitment to providing £1 billion for children’s and adult social care next year, however, three times this amount is needed to plug the funding gap children’s services will soon face. Without proper and sustainable investment in children and the services they rely on we are only storing up huge human and fiscal costs for the future.

“On serious youth violence, the government has reaffirmed its commitment to placing a duty on public bodies to collaborate, this duty already exists for children and is the basis of our safeguarding system. Moreover, the measures outlined in the speech do nothing to address the reasons why a young person might carry a knife or why some children are more at risk of being drawn into criminality. Evidence demonstrates a clear link between inequality and high rates of violence.

“It is right that all young people have access to an excellent education and any additional funding for schools is welcome. But beyond funding there are many barriers to achieving a high performing and inclusive education system including rising numbers of learners being excluded from schools, curriculum reforms, increased accountability and a high stakes inspection regime that must be addressed.

“We are pleased the government has committed to progressing the Domestic Abuse Bill, however, the proposals as they stand must focus more on prevention and clearly reflect the scale, reach or severity of this issue. Domestic abuse affects millions of men, women and children each year, our own research shows it is the most common reason why children come to the attention of children’s social care. If we are to turn the tide of this endemic problem, we must work with children and families at risk of domestic abuse as well as with perpetrators to prevent domestic abuse from occurring in the first place.”

ENDS


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Comment: HMI Prisons and HMI Probation youth resettlement report

Stuart Gallimore, ADCS Immediate Past President, said:

“Sadly many of the messages in the report are not new and the outcomes of too many children and young people leaving custody remain poor in terms of entering education, finding employment and rates of re-offending. Their transition back into the community is a shared endeavour; it’s important that their needs are met in a joined-up and holistic way while they are in custody and when they leave to enable a full and successful reintegration into society.

“The report recognises that resettlement can be a scary time for some children and young people and planning for their release should ideally start as soon as they start their custodial sentence so that the services and support they need are available when and where they need them. Where appropriate children and young people should be involved in this process.

“Finding suitable accommodation is often one of the main difficulties we face in this area of work due to a national shortage of housing, particularly social housing and a shortage of all types of placements for children in our care. The recommendation in this report for a national scheme to pay retainers on suitable accommodation a minimum of one month before a child or young person’s release is worthy of further discussion.”

ENDS


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ADCS response to the Youth Endowment Fund announcement

Stuart Gallimore, ADCS Immediate Past President, said:

“The Early Intervention Foundation, which is involved in the fund, has a wealth of experience in working closely with the sector to enable an evidence-based approach to our work with children and families. It’s vital that future policies are rooted in expert advice and scarce public funds are maximised, therefore, more evidence of what works to help children and families earlier before they reach crisis point is much needed. While additional support and investment in preventing children and young people from being drawn into crime and violence is a positive thing not all children will benefit from today’s announcement. We urgently need proper, sustainable and equitable investment in all children that enables local authorities to meet their needs now and in the future. The government’s current approach to funding is not conducive to this agenda, for example, children’s services face a £3.1 billion funding gap by 2025 and there are several small pots of funding for some local authorities to trial different ways of working but the next logical step never materialises - the national roll out of successful programmes, with adequate funding from government to match. This would not only enable us to improve children’s life chances and outcomes it’s a smart fiscal policy too. Helping children and families earlier before their needs escalate, reducing pressure on high end, more costly services. We hope the Treasury recognises this in time for the Spending Review.”

ENDS


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Out of area placements

Charlotte Ramsden, Chair of the ADCS Health, Care and Additional Needs Policy Committee, said:

“Finding the right placement for children in care and keeping them safe is a priority for all local authorities. Whilst placing children close to their community, family and friends is preferable there are good reasons why a child might be placed further away including where there are concerns about their safety or their needs can’t be met locally. As Sir Martin Narey recognises in his review of residential care ‘the right placement’ for a child is more important than location.

“We recognise there is sometimes an issue with the notification process when a child is placed out of area and as an Association we host a range of resources on out of area placements on our website including a list of relevant contact details for all local authorities to help facilitate the process as well as regional protocol and guidance documents.”

ENDS


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Yorkshire & Humber Regional Update September 2019

Work Plan

The 2019 work plan for sector-led improvement is now in place. It has a particular emphasis on:

• Customised support for individual LAs with greatest need

• An enhanced role for chief executives and lead members through the Children’s Improvement Board

• A slimmed down self-assessment process

• Introduction of quarterly reporting using a web-based platform.

Quarterly Reporting

The new quarterly reporting arrangements are now in place and the quarter one report has been produced. The web-based solution, ‘Tableau’, is now being utilised, offering greater reporting flexibility and we have liaised with the East Midlands (another Tableau user), to share learning. Further work is being undertaken on inclusion of workforce related indicators.

Governance

There are new Terms of Reference for our Children’s Improvement Board with increased expectations of lead members and chief executives, giving it a more assertive role.

The SLI Executive (a subgroup of DCSs) has a stronger role than previously in scrutinising intelligence about performance, reviewing Ofsted reports, quarterly performance reports and outputs from health checks/peer challenge in order to identify areas of strength and risk/concern.

Scrutiny and Challenge

Front door health checks (FDHC) have been introduced in 2019. A business process has been developed and teams to undertake the health checks are now being recruited. FDHCs are targeted on LAs self-identifying ‘front door’ as a particular area for development (six to be undertaken in 2019 – the first of these in Autumn 2019).

A business process has been developed and piloted for a children’s mental health (CMH) peer challenge. The impending CMH JTAI activity brought this into sharper focus and DCSs and CCG commissioners have been reminded of the opportunity to engage. The business process is being modified to ensure it is JTAI compatible.

Leadership Development

Demand continues to be high for our regionally developed and regionally run leadership programmes, with 60 participants on the 2019 Aspirant Leaders Programme and 30 for the Senior Leaders Programme. Both programmes are now underway.

Lead Member Network

There is an active lead member network which meets bi-monthly. Our next meeting is a joint one with lead members from the North East.

Every LA a PIP

DfE funding has enabled us to pilot an approach which provides some financial support for LAs (other than PiPs) that exceed normal expectations in the provision of brokered support to others. The model is based on the premise that all LAs have the potential to provide improvement support to others. Our intention is to wrap a coordinated package of support around one or more LAs, drawing on PiP and other regional support.


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West Midlands Regional Update September 2019

Regional Improvement and Innovation Alliance

We are moving into the third year of our collaboration programme, which includes the RIIA and aims to continue to improve the support and challenge that we can offer each other to achieve higher levels of performance and better outcomes for children, young people and families. It is pleasing that as a region we now have more ‘good’ than ‘inadequate’ authorities but there is much to do if we are to meet the ambitions we set ourselves in 2016 to achieve by 2021.

Public Mutual

Mutual Ventures undertook an options appraisal for the future structure of West Midlands Children’s Services (WMCS) which has led to the presentation of an outline business case for LA DCSs and trust chief executives to consider at their meeting on the 6 September. All agree that there is the need for a more formal arrangement and the options for this are: a joint venture contractual model; a joint venture corporate model; or remaining as is with a legally binding agreement to ensure shared ownership/liability.

FutureSocial

FutureSocial remains a key focus for the DCS network developing alternative delivery methods under the three key headings:

• Workforce: Recruitment, retention, sustainability and management of agency provision

• Quality and Performance: Developing best practice across all aspects of social care

• Leadership and Management.

The innovation funding continues until March 2020, however, there will also be a continuation of some of the core aspects beyond this time built into the future operation of WMCS. Each council and trust is working through their funded continuing professional development action plans.

NAAS

The NAAS pilot plans are well underway. There is a dilemma regarding the assessment centres that are managed centrally in that we have been given a target for 25% of the children’s social care workforce to undertake the assessment but have been allocated too few assessment centre places to meet this. Having motivated colleagues to undertake the assessment voluntarily we are in danger of letting them down if they have to wait a long time for their assessment. The second issue is one of declaration. Those participating are volunteers and do not have to disclose to their council or trust if they have passed the assessment. If this scheme is to be rolled out both the capacity and declaration issues will need to have been resolved.

SEND Regional Network

WMCS has now taken over the running of the network and the DCS for Birmingham has agreed to lead on this for the DCS network. There is a growing concern over the high needs budgets and a number of councils and trusts have received ‘written statements of action’ status from Ofsted.

West Midlands Safe Centre

We have been successful with our bid for the creation of a Safe Centre to be built in the West Midlands but are waiting to find out how much funding is available from the DfE secure estates team for both the design and build stages. A meeting scheduled for 18 September, chaired by Sir Alan Wood, will provide greater detail.

Education and Skills Network

The DCS network is meeting with the recently appointed Regional Schools Commissioner in October to work through mutual agendas including issues around home education, pupils missing from schools, and school exclusions. Education and skills are a key priority for the West Midlands as we are a region with poor social mobility.

Regional Commissioning Hub

The hub is being established and staff recruited with the intention that it will be self-sufficient within three years. This will be achieved through better management of the marketplace and the collaborative buying power of the region’s councils and trusts.


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South West Regional Update September 2019

South West Regional Summer Summit - Building Regional Improvement Capacity and Improving Practice Leadership

This year’s summer summit included a range of workshops enabling South West local authorities to share an example of their good practice:

  • Bath and North East Somerset: Improved responses to adolescent risks by the establishment of a specialist service - Adolescent at Risk Service – ART.
  • Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole: Learning from Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole: what has worked to reduce NEETs & Not Knowns.
  • Bristol: Strengthening families and reducing our children in care population.
  • Cornwall: Meeting the new challenges for corporate parenting guidance and extended duty for care leavers.
  • Dorset: Using business intelligence to develop and deliver our early help offer.
  • Gloucestershire: How ambassadors make a difference to services in Gloucestershire.
  • North Somerset: Bright Spots survey - delivering on what’s important to our children and young people.
  • Plymouth: Implementing the national post-qualifying standards and using NAAS as a vehicle for practice improvement.
  • Somerset: Working with partners in child exploitation.
  • South Gloucestershire: Deep dive quality assurance – achieving consistently good QA.
  • Swindon: Approach to working with alcohol dependent parents.
  • Torbay: Developments in the front door – how the partnership response is supporting a turnaround in troubled families work.
  • Wiltshire: SEND service developments – improving outcomes for children and young people.

The summit also launched the new Regional Leadership Development Programme specifically aimed at those reporting to assistant directors of children’s services. Nearly 70 people attended the summit from the region’s 14 local authorities. Feedback from participants was very positive.

Regional Leadership Development Programme

The Staff College will be delivering, with partners, a leadership development programme for aspirant assistant directors in the South West region. The aim of the programme is to improve the strategic leadership skills of up to fifty managers who are the direct reports to assistant directors in each of the region’s 15 local authorities. The programme, which will commence in October 2019, will include some ‘coaching and mentoring’ elements in addition to the learning events.

Self-Assessment Peer Challenge

The date for the self-assessment peer challenge will be Friday 6 December 2019. The self-assessment framework has been reviewed with an additional self-assessment on ‘risk factors’ included. All local authorities are participating – the date for completed submissions is 12 October 2019.

Strategic Children’s Sector-Led Improvement Group – RIA Board

The strategic group, which has representation from the region’s chief executives, lead members, directors of children’s services and the LGA, has now become the Regional Improvement and Innovation Alliance Board.

A leadership summit bringing together the chief executives, lead members and directors of children’s services from all of the regions’ local authorities is planned for 12 March 2020. The leadership summit will review progress of the alliance and agree plans for 2021 and beyond.

Thematic Peer Challenge Programme for 2019/20

The programme for the coming year gives local authorities the option to choose the focus for their challenge from the themes that Ofsted use for focussed visits and JTAIs. The plan is for all local authorities to participate with the exception of those judged inadequate by Ofsted. There will be a peer challenge preparation workshop on 7 November 2019 in Taunton – all local authorities have a place for their peer challenge lead.

Workforce Development – Frontline Regional Partnership

The first cohort of South West Frontline participants has now completed a five-week programme of learning, a readiness to practice portfolio and a law exam. The participants are now ready to begin their two-year journey with their local authorities, starting on Monday 2 September. There are 45 participants in 12 units across eight local authorities in the South West. In addition,12 consultant social workers have been recruited to support the participants with their learning. Frontline has received much positive feedback about the quality of the candidates across the region applying for the CSW posts.

Commissioning Group Project

The regional commissioning group has developed a project, led by Bath and North East Somerset, to gather intelligence through a ‘market position statement’ on the sufficiency of in-house fostering placements in all of the South West local authorities. The project has gained some external funding from the LGA. It is planned that the ‘market position’ will be presented to representatives from all local authorities at a regional meeting in the autumn.


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South East Regional Update September 2019

Sector-Led Improvement

• The Regional Improvement Plan for 2019-20 with detailed annexes was launched at a regional summit on 22 March 2019

• The plan includes a £130,000 contribution from DfE alongside £162,500 subscription income, and an agreement for quarterly data sharing on the 18 nationally agreed data items

• The plan has ten priorities:

Actions that will address practice issues:

1. Collaborate to improve provision for complex LAC

2. Collaborate on increasing in-house foster placements

3. Collaborate on ways to promote educational inclusion with SE19 SEND group

4. Share and develop new models of social care practice that fit the times

5. Develop regional quality assurance capacity

Actions that will develop leadership capacity and staff resources:

6. Build leadership capacity across the region

7. Workforce matters; recruitment and retention; agency

Actions that will underpin the cycle of self-assessment and peer challenge:

8. Data benchmarking

9. Annual self-assessment and triad peer challenge

Action to address the funding gap:

10. Increase political lobbying to address the funding gap

• The plan follows a non-stigmatising approach to improvement: the assumption is that there is excellent practice in all authorities; and that all authorities have improvement needs

• Recently we have:

o Been successful in attracting a DfE grant of £73,350 for our complex LAC project

o Published an independent review of our Triad Peer Challenge events and confirmed dates for the November round of challenges

o Commissioned The Staff College to conduct a needs analysis for leadership development

o Held our first quarterly data sharing meeting with DfE

o Commissioned a review of the Memorandum of Co-operation on agency staff employment, which has recently come under pressure

o Offered support and assistance to the London regional sector-led improvement effort.

For further details go to www.seslip.co.uk or contact the Programme Manager Richard Tyndall 07880-787007 richard.tyndall@richardtyndall.co.uk


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North West Regional Update September 2019

Considering Transition for Young People with Learning Difficulties

With a growing cohort of children and young people whose needs are being met through an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), the common challenge of transition to adulthood is of growing importance in the region. As part of the response to this, later this month we will work with our colleagues in North West ADASS to bring together statutory directors of both children’s and adults’ services – including those who deliver both these functions. The session, supported by NWADCS, NWADASS and NHS England, will focus keenly on transition to define:

• Key joint challenges, including transition experience, market shaping and the cost of care

• Level of ambition and the potential for meaningful joint work

• Aims of any joint working, including potential outputs and outcomes expected.

Our intention is that this new way of working, along with our current co-production of a specialist education flexible purchasing system (FPS) which is underway with parent/carer forums across the region, will help create the conditions for an improved and more sustainable experience of transition.

Understanding the Changing Nature of Children’s Services’ Markets

In a context of increased demand and cost, sub-regional collaboratives within the North West brought together two workstreams with agreement to formalise outputs in an analytical resource. Greater Manchester’s work which identified structural challenges in regulating and monitoring providers who deliver at scale, signalling private equity as a driver of company growth and gaps in ownership data. And, market reform work in Liverpool City which identified the growth of private equity finance and growth by acquisition in the increasing costs for residential care. Officers brought these two work streams together to jointly explore the implications of the early analysis which highlighted the following:

• Market oversight, company ownership and debt: Private equity finance is driving a model of adding value to companies through ‘growth by acquisition, financed through increased indebtedness’. Two of the largest providers in fostering and residential care have cumulative debts of £0.76 billion, equivalent to more than £5 million per LA in England

• Impact of private equity in fostering: Private equity models have shifted focus to ‘growth by acquisition’ placing estimated values on each fostering family between £50,000- £125,000 and delivering a larger market share with reduced capacity. Whilst increasing the value of the remaining households, it is hypothesised that the switch of the growth model is a driver in the decline of mainstream foster carers

• Impact of private equity in residential: Increasing consolidation is not leading to reduction in capacity yet has seen prices increase significantly with growing need meaning any decline in performance is not limiting demand or reducing financial returns. There is currently no legislative framework by which Ofsted inspects and holds providers accountable on the efficacy of the organisation as a whole. Provider failure could have a profound impact on children.

For further information, we are happy to provide the full report, ‘The changing nature of company ownership, private equity and the impact on the services delivered for children’ and the Executive Summary, ‘Changing Nature of Children’s Services Markets’.

Responding to the Changing Nature of Children’s Services’ Markets

As part of a wider response to the issues outlined above, colleagues in Greater Manchester are developing small, multi-LA clusters to tackle market shaping collaboratively as a means of forging better working relationships with local suppliers and increasing the number of children placed close to home communities. The cluster approach allows a focus on local provision and partnership working, with sufficient scale to support effective matching and encourage provider investments. The clusters for residential represent around 130 – 140 placements each. This will ultimately include the consideration of differentiated purchasing for local provision and issues of social value to ensure children’s spend is kept within the local economy and centred on delivering for children. The piloting of this approach in fostering is focused around our more complex children in residential who are ready for a family environment. This model is distinct as it enables commissioners to act as ‘stewards’ of working relationships and focusses on behaviours and approaches which will develop services and placements over time. It prioritises long-term collaboration to support more considered matching, providing a balance between local supply and sufficient volume to merit IFA investment.


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North East Regional Update September 2019

Regional Learning Event

In July we held our second annual regional learning event focused on sharing learning from recent inspection experiences in the region. A session on SEND was attended by local authority staff and health partners and there was also a session on ILACS and focused visits.

Young Ambassadors

The North East has five young ambassadors who are care experienced young people, funded by the 12 local authorities to support the work of the regional Children in Care Council (CiCC). They attended our directors’ branch meeting in July to share an update on their work, which includes monitoring how well each LA is implementing the regional CiCC priorities for LAC and care leavers.

Workforce

The first cohort of social work apprentices in the region will start in September, providing a further route for new entrants into the profession. We are now exploring the use of apprenticeships for social work managers. The regional workforce strategy was recently reviewed and priorities for 2019/20 are:

• Recruitment and retention of social workers and social care staff at all levels and developing the wider social care workforce

• Continuing to manage agency supply, demand, cost and quality

• Leadership and management development.

Peer Audit

A peer audit process has been in place in the region since last year. Authorities work in peer networks of three to carry out case file audits. Each of our four peer networks has now completed some peer audits and in September we will carry out a review of the learning from those that have taken place.

Lead Member Network

Over the last year we have reinvigorated the regional lead members network, which is now meeting quarterly, supported by the LGA Children’s Improvement Advisor for the region. We are currently planning a cross-regional workshop with lead members from the Yorkshire and Humber region, which will take place in October and focus on LAC and edge of care.


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Greater London Regional Update September 2019

London’s Response to the Regional Improvement Alliance Approach

Director leads have begun convening thematic workshops to delve deeper into the four priority areas - finance and resources; vulnerable adolescents; workforce; and special educational needs and disabilities. These workshops will lead to the development of a more detailed work programme. At the meeting of ALDCS on 15 July, directors heard about the progress that had been made following the thematic workshops on SEND and adolescent safeguarding.

Boroughs continue to submit their signed memorandums of understanding.

Funding Pressures in Children’s Social Care and High Needs

London DCSs are working with London councils, chief executives and finance directors to understand better the financial pressures facing children’s social care budgets and the High Needs Block. ISOS published their report, Under Pressure, looking at cost drivers, effective practice in managing pressures and potential for collaborative solutions. ALDCS is liaising with partners to take recommendations forward, particularly around joint commissioning.

Admissions

London primary schools received 96,598 applications in total this year, a 0.08% decrease compared to last year, according to figures published by the Pan-London Admissions Board. 97 per cent of children due to start primary school in London this September have been offered a place at a preferred school. There is growing concern about decreasing rolls at primary schools in some parts of London although this year’s numbers show a relatively small overall decrease. ALDCS continues to support boroughs with places planning, to ensure that all boroughs can meet rising need, particularly in secondary and special schools, as well as cope with reductions in demand at primary in some boroughs.

New Multi-Agency Safeguarding Arrangements

All London boroughs published their new arrangements by the deadline of 29 June. In order to maintain a level of consistency across London and to facilitate communication across local areas, the new arrangements are either called Safeguarding Children Partnerships or Safeguarding Children Boards. Links to the new arrangements are available at https://www.londonscb.gov.uk/london-scb-contacts/. The London Safeguarding Children Board has agreed to have an executive of the three safeguarding partners at a pan-London level and ALDCS is represented on this executive. Engagement with the wider partnership will continue but in a different format.

Children in Custody

A multi-agency working group, chaired by a DCS, is working with the MPS to reduce the number of children held in police custody. The group shares data on police requests for accommodation with local authorities on a regular basis. This sharing of data has enabled feedback on cases between custody suites and emergency duty teams thereby improving the police and local authority response to children held in custody. A protocol for London, which supplements the Home Office Concordat on children held in police custody, went live on 10 June. ALDCS has also asked local authority commissioners across London to develop approaches to the co-commissioning of non-secure alternative accommodation for children denied bail – there is insufficient demand for places for any one borough to address this issue.

Pan-London Secure Settings Project

ALDCS continues to work with NHS England (London region) to explore a new collaborative solution to the provision of secure children’s home capacity in the region. Discussions have progressed to the point of completing an options appraisal and recommendations are now subject to wider engagement with stakeholders, including political leaders.


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East Midlands Regional Update September 2019

Sector-Led Improvement Headlines (RIIA)

While it is recognised that this activity is reported elsewhere, the RIIA is being used in this region as the all-encompassing framework for our collaborative joint work. Our cycle of self-evaluation and peer challenge will begin again during the autumn term and alongside this the joint work between the nine LAs is being organised to contribute to four over-arching priorities:

• Managing increasing levels of demand and need at a time of reducing financial resource, including SEND pressures and placement sufficiency

• Social Work recruitment and managing the workforce (MoU)

• Protecting children at risk of exploitation

• The quality and effectiveness of practice that improves outcomes.

Early Intervention Practitioner L4 Apprenticeship

The EM regional workforce leads group, led by Derbyshire colleagues, continues to make progress to create a level four apprenticeship, having now received the support of the board of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education. This qualification, once it is launched, will complement the existing level five and level six diplomas in early intervention and family support.

School Partnership Inclusion Case Studies

Commissioned by our Regional Education Summit, we are in the final stages of producing an anthology of case studies of schools and partnerships that are working to increase school inclusion and reduce or eliminate exclusion. The anthology is being launched later in September and will be available to download at www.emsyh.org.uk/summit

QSW MoU

The region continues its commitment to develop the regional MoU for social work as a main tool in the drive to improve workforce quality, price and supply. A renewed work programme is being commissioned from the regional HR leads group to add the growth of imaginative ‘supply side’ solutions alongside a re-fresh of current price regulation activity.

Parental Conflict

All nine LAs in the region have pooled the DWP grant for parental conflict and have recruited a regional lead to provide strategic leadership and drive the agenda. With guidance from the strategic coordinator, all LAs have completed an EIF planning tool and are in the process of agreeing a programme of activities that will enable a joined-up approach across the region.

UASC

Four out of nine of the region’s LAs are now at or very close to the 0.07% threshold with a steady increase in regional numbers from spontaneous arrivals, national transfers and ‘children’ passing through the adult dispersal centre within the region. LAs use a combination of dedicated UASC teams and integrated processes and the region also benefits from the role of a regional officer to manage UASC pressures.

Mental Health Connections with NHS

The spike of mental health need in the 10-20 years-old cohort continues to provide a significant challenge to all partners. The EM DCS group is supporting steps with the NHS regional field force to look to bridge any gulf between the NHS approach to mental health issues and local government activity. The region is keen to use the momentum of the trailblazer sites to establish multi-agency approaches that build upon, and not duplicate, existing systems.


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Eastern regional update September 2019

Regional Self-Assessment & DCS Peer Challenge

• The 2019 annual self-assessment process has concluded, with a status update planned for the autumn

• Self-assessments that were submitted by each local authority were moderated by another authority within the region. Moderation comments were shared prior to a DCS peer challenge event that was held at the end of June

• A workshop has been arranged to review the template used for self-assessment to ensure that it remains current/relevant to changing needs.

Regional Priorities

• The regional priorities are currently under review by the DCS group (following the peer challenge event) and a meeting is planned with the chairs of all the regional network groups to disseminate the priority areas and establish each group’s contribution to them

• For each priority a DCS sponsor and an AD lead will be invited to steer an action plan

• A regional conference is being held in September to focus on the serious youth violence priority area; this will combine national, regional and local best practice and seek opportunities for further regional collaboration to tackle the issue

• A leadership and management training programme is being constructed by a regional team in conjunction with The Staff College, targeting heads of service and team managers.

Peer Review & Inspection

• Peer reviews continue to provide challenge and support in targeted, thematic areas of service

• They have been undertaken across social care, education and SEND services and others are being planned for the coming year.

Data Benchmarking

• The regular quarterly tartan rug report continues to highlight comparative performance across all LAs in the region against a range of performance measures

• A performance benchmarking report for 2018/19 has been published for the region; it pulls together data from the tartan rug alongside nationally published data across children’s social care.

Network Highlights

• The regular regional networks continue to be held, together with the re-establishment of a workforce, resourcing and development group for workforce leads across the region

• Meeting schedules for 2020 have been booked for all the regional groups

• A regional conference has been held for the leaving care group with a focus on developing local offers

• A regional leaders’ event for chief executives, lead members and DCSs is being planned and is likely to be scheduled for January/February 2020

• Andrew Bunyan, our LGA advisor, will be facilitating some regional work on residential care alternative provision, to look at whether we could do something different so that we can approach the DfE with a plan and estimate of cost

• The group provided the troubled families team at DfE with data to show how much extra cost would be accrued by social care if the troubled families funding was dropped

The group has arranged for some work on budget pressures to be carried out by finance leads across the region, coordinated by Hertfordshire.


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ADCS response to the APPG report on missing children

Rachel Dickinson, ADCS President, said:

“Finding the right placement for children in care and keeping them safe is a priority for all local authorities. Whilst placing children close to their community, family and friends is preferable there are good reasons why a child might be placed further away including where there are concerns about their safety or their needs can’t be met locally. The child’s voice is critical but choosing the right placement can, at times, conflict with their wishes. As Sir Martin Narey recognises in his review of residential care ‘the right placement for a child is more important than location.’

“Any increase in the number of out of area placements must be viewed in the context of a 24% increase in the number of children in our care over the past decade, a shortage of foster carers and placements in residential children’s homes, as well as a mismatch between the location of these placements and need. That local authority budgets have been halved since 2010 but need has not cannot be overlooked either as this is impacting on our ability to develop suitable, local options for children and young people. ADCS strongly cautions against the view that all young people in out of area placements or unregulated provision are badly placed or left without support, indeed there are some excellent providers of services and the report does not recognise the important work they do.

“Safeguarding is everyone’s business and local authorities, the police, health services and schools, who share our legal safeguarding duty, and the community must work together to keep children safe, particularly if a child is new to the area. Any increase in children going missing is a concern for local authorities. This can often be a symptom of wider problems in a child’s life and is not restricted to children in care. However, we must pay special attention to this cohort, given local authorities’ particular responsibility for these children and their additional vulnerability. This is a complex area of policy and practice and it is important that we all work together to keep children and young people safe rather than pointing fingers at one another.

“The suggestion in this report that local authorities are acting as ‘recruiting sergeants’, is wholly inappropriate and we are in dialogue with the report authors directly.”

ENDS


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Children are this country’s future

Despite us being one of the richest economies in the world, widening inequalities in the UK are plain to see if you open your eyes. Figures and experience show child poverty is increasing as is homelessness. Holiday hunger clubs, food banks and food donation points in our supermarkets are helping families to make ends meet, according to the Office for National Statistics, the gap in life expectancy between the richest and poorest areas in England and Wales has widened too.

There are things we should celebrate; the UK is one of the safest places in the world for children to grow up and we are better at recognising the vulnerability of children and young people who are being exploited than we were a few years ago. Though, at our peril we ignore increasing disparities in our society.

In April, the Social Mobility Commission warned in its state of the nation report that social mobility has ‘stagnated’ and inequality will remain entrenched from ‘birth to work’ without urgent action from government. More recently, the Education Policy Institute’s annual education report highlighted stark differences in the attainment of disadvantaged pupils and their wealthier counterparts. Some progress has been made in narrowing the attainment gap in primary school but disparities in attainment remain between certain ethnic backgrounds, pupils with special educational needs and disabilities remain significantly behind their peers at every stage of education too. At the current level, the study suggests it will take over 500 years to close the GCSE attainment gap in English and maths between disadvantaged pupils and their peers.

The issues above deserve more attention from our politicians, as does the perilous state of children’s services funding. Ahead of the Spending Round there have been a series of funding pledges to address pressures in the NHS, schools and the police, but there has been no mention of children’s social care, although adult social care seems to be high on the Prime Minister’s agenda. It makes moral, and financial, sense to support children and families as and when their needs arise but we cannot do this if we are forced to spend what little resource we have on acute interventions too late in a child’s life. We urge the Treasury to think of investment in children and their families not as a burden but as potentially life changing. Children are this country’s future, investing in them is the only way to put ‘our country on the road to a brighter future’.

Rachel Dickinson is Executive Director People at Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council and ADCS President 2019/20.

This column was first published in The MJ on 29 August. | https://www.themj.co.uk/Children-are-this-countrys-future/214490


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Review of SEND launched

Rachel Dickinson, President of the ADCS, said:

“The 2014 reforms were ambitious, rightly raising expectations and extending support from birth up to 25 years, however, there is growing frustration and record levels of dissatisfaction despite record spending. We therefore welcome this review, which follows confirmation of an 11% uplift in funding to support learners with special educational needs and disabilities in 2020/21 earlier this week. £700 million is a lot of money but by itself it will not address the systemic challenges we now face in the delivery of our statutory duties, particularly in relation to 19 – 25 year olds requiring education, health and care plans. This older cohort is growing faster than many others and children’s services have not yet been funded to meet their needs.

“Local authorities, schools, health commissioners and providers have worked hard over the last five years to turn these reforms into a reality. Central government departments and agencies monitored our progress closely but have, at times, overlooked their own role in facilitating local efforts. Sufficient capital funding has not been made available for new special school places leading to a growing reliance on the costly independent sector and a national workforce strategy never materialised. As a result, we have shortages of education psychologists, special educational needs teachers, speech and language as well as occupational therapists. Health partners have been slow to adapt to the 0 – 25 agenda, particularly mental health services, resulting in widening inequalities in access across the country. It’s important that children, their families, professionals, practitioners and all relevant government departments take part in this process. It offers us an opportunity to work together to bring forward a plan of action to fully realise the ambitions that underpin the SEND reforms and provide the support children and young people truly deserve.”


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Spending Round 2019

Rachel Dickinson, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said:

“Today’s funding announcements offer some short-term respite for children’s services but few reassurances about the future. This is at least some recognition of the concerns ADCS, and others, have been consistently raising about the growing pressures faced by children and families as well as the public services that support them in times of difficulty.

“Local government funding has fallen by half over the last nine years but need has not. A failure to invest in children’s futures is only storing up fiscal and human costs for the future. What’s missing from today’s announcements, and what must be a feature in the next full spending review, is meaningful and sustainable investment in helping families early, when issues first arise thus averting the need for the state to become deeply involved in family life. Youth workers, children’s centres and family support workers are not simply nice to have, they are part of a valuable safety net that prevents children being harmed.

“We cautiously welcome the investment in education at primary, secondary and at FE level as well as the additional funding to support learners with special educational needs and disabilities and await further detail about timings and allocations. Today’s funding pledges come at a deeply uncertain time and we dearly hope these commitments will still stand regardless of the outcome of the latest ‘Brexit’ crisis. Children’s voices are not easily heard in Westminster but we will continue to champion their rights and to call for the government to invest fully in their futures, not just offer them the bare minimum levels of resourcing and support.”


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Messages for the new PM and SoS for Education

At the time of writing the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has announced a string of new ministerial appointments including a new Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson MP. It is vital that we all work together to secure the best outcomes for children and families and a country that works for all children. This includes making the case to the Treasury, ahead of the Spending Review, that it pays to invest in children and their education, in both human and monetary terms. The Department for Education’s (DfE) own research (Dec 2017) on the potential economic value to the UK of reducing the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers in England to the same levels as in London estimates this could lead to an overall financial benefit of around £12 billion.

A preventative approach to improving children and families’ outcomes should be the golden thread running throughout all government policy. We will need to invest in both child protection and early help services but in time we will reap the rewards. Evidence supporting this case includes: recent research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies highlighting how investment in children’s centres has improved children’s health and is saving the NHS millions and the latest national evaluation of the Troubled Families Programme suggesting it has reduced the proportion of children in care. If we can reduce the need for more acute and costly interventions why wouldn’t we?

Reducing deprivation and the resulting child poverty must also be an overarching policy consideration this government. Poverty is a risk factor for children and young people, evidence clearly shows that childhood disadvantage affects children’s ability to learn and leads to future poverty – children with low qualifications are five times more likely to be unemployed as an adult. We urgently need a national strategy for this national problem.

As systems leaders, the role of directors of children’s services extends far beyond the services we manage, commission or deliver. We are responsible for ensuring the system as a whole works for all children and young people in our localities and seek to persuade our partners to align their priorities with ours. We believe there should be an equivalent in central government acting as an advocate and systems leader helping to ensure children are at the heart of all policy decisions (perhaps a ‘Department for Children and Families’).

These issues (and more) require recognition from the Prime Minister and ministers and action.

Rachel Dickinson is Executive Director People at Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council and ADCS President 2019/20.

This column was first published in The MJ on 6 August 2019. | https://www.themj.co.uk/Prevention-is-the-key-to-ensuring-our-childrens-future/214351


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Research on direct payments for disabled children and young...

Commenting on research by the University of Leeds and CEREBRA on direct payments for disabled children and young people and their families Charlotte Ramsden, Chair of the ADCS Health, Care and Additional Needs Policy Committee, said:

“Children’s services are under significant pressure following a decade of year on year cuts to local authority budgets and rising need for our services. We face a £3.1 billion funding gap by 2025, just to stand still and there is mounting evidence concluding that there is not enough money in the system to meet the level of need that exists in our communities. We recognise the value of effective direct payment systems and seek to encourage these using our Local Offer arrangements. Without sufficiently funded children’s services, the principles underpinning direct payments for disabled children and young people and their families, such as greater control and choice over their own care and support, are potentially at risk.”

ENDS


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OCC Stability Index 2019

Commenting on the Stability Index 2019 Jenny Coles, ADCS Vice President, said:

“Achieving stability for every child in care is a top priority for local authorities as is ensuring children are safe and high-quality placements are available when and where they are needed. The number of children in our care has risen by 24% in the last ten years (ADCS Safeguarding Pressures 6) yet there has been no national government strategy to recruit more foster carers or address the nationwide shortage of residential placements, undermining local and regional efforts to minimise placement instability. The reasons why children are coming into care older and their needs are becoming more complex will vary, from greater professional and public awareness of child criminal and sexual exploitation, improved multi agency responses to safeguarding children rather than criminalising them and more unaccompanied asylum seeking children in our care to the continued impact of the Southwark Judgement in relation to local authorities’ responsibility for homeless 16-17 year olds.”

ENDS


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Comment: cost of the NAAS so far

Rachael Wardell, Chair of the ADCS Workforce Development Policy Committee, said:

“It is difficult to predict what the eventual national cost of the NAAS might be, however, in the context of austerity and rising demand for our services ADCS continues to question whether the £18.4 million the government states it has spent on the NAAS so far represents good value for money. Instead this funding would be much better directed at frontline and early help services which are experiencing a real strain on resources, and in the retention of social workers.”

ENDS


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Community Care survey on social work training and career...

Rachael Wardell, Chair of the ADCS Workforce Development Policy Committee, said:

“In a job as challenging and complex as social work, professionals will always need training and support to develop the skills needed to make positive and enduring changes in children and families’ lives. Local authorities are doing lots of things to help create the conditions for great social work to flourish like ensuring social workers get the support they need, have manageable workloads, and receive regular, reflective supervision where they can raise issues about their work, including their professional development and training needs. There is good practice by local authorities in this space and this is evidenced in Ofsted inspection reports, but without clear routes to progression and opportunities for their development, social workers may feel like they have to leave their current job or the profession as a whole, and this is absolutely not what we would want. Without enough, high quality social workers who are valued and well supported in their role we as directors of children’s services cannot do our job which is to ensure all children in our local area thrive.

“We need to listen to our staff about what would make a difference to them and most directors are conscious of what they’d like to do more of in relation to the workforce challenges we face. However, the current financial context for local authorities is tough, since 2010 our funding has been halved but need for our help and support has not. A lack of resources in the system and rising need for statutory services is likely to be affecting the amount local authorities can spend on anything other than statutory services, despite us knowing that in the long term investing in the workforce is the right thing to do. We hope government heed the messages from the survey too.”

ENDS


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Annual Conference 2019 Presentations

​Presentations and Speeches from Annual Conference 2019

PLENARY SESSIONS

Rachel Dickinson - Presidential Address

Nadhim Zahawi MP - Minister’s Address

Transitional Safeguarding

Further reading:

Andi Brierley

Charlie Taylor - Youth Justice Board

Ofsted

Barnsley Youth Voice


WORKSHOPS

Workshop A – Inclusivity in education

Workshop B – Learning from SEND inspections

Workshop C – Working together to prevent suicide

Workshop D – Funding for Children’s Services

Workshop E – Investing in the early help workforce

Workshop F – Early years and life chances - TO FOLLOW

Workshop G – Promoting emotional wellbeing


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Annual Conference 2019 Presidential Address

Rachel Dickinson’s Presidential Address to the 2019 ADCS Annual Conference - 4 July 2019.

View speech


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President’s Speech Annual Conference 2019

“We want all children and young people to thrive not just survive, in a country that works for all children”

Leaders of children’s services are committed to working with the Department for Education to achieve a much needed “joined up approach” between the various government departments with responsibility for different aspects of children’s services policy, the President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services said today in Manchester.

Rachel Dickinson used her speech at the ADCS Annual Conference, attended by senior leaders in children and young people services and the Children’s Minister, to reflect on several breakthroughs in children’s rights legislation including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Children Acts of 1989 and 2004. Central to these things is the idea that children’s views, wishes and preferences must be taken into account when making decisions that affect them, but there has been “little evidence of that from our national politicians over the last three years in their quest to achieve Brexit”, and serious domestic social policy issues remain, she said.

Rachel Dickinson continued, one of the most significant principles underpinning the 1989 Act is the welfare of children is paramount, but many of the modern-day challenges faced by children, their families and the services they rely on were unforeseen by those who drafted the Act, 30 years ago. Organised criminal and sexual exploitation, digital dangers and a rise in unaccompanied asylum seeking children, “form part of the new landscape” facing children and families today in addition to a “lack of affordable housing, insecure work” and increasing poverty, she said.

Local authorities have never been “adequately resourced to identify, safeguard, protect and provide other services for children in need and their families” she said before inviting the Minister and the Department for Education, together with ADCS members “to reclaim and resource the core principles of prevention in the 89 Act” and stated that this needs to include “re-visiting the expectations of social work as envisioned by the Act particularly in relation to Section 17”. If we don’t “the most vulnerable in society will continue to bear the brunt of the impact of cuts to local government funding and there will be even fewer social workers available to help”, she said.

On education reforms

“The government’s education reforms have completely lost sight of inclusion. Education is a right for all, not a privilege for some. It’s also an important protective factor in childhood and beyond…The new school inspection framework should shine a bright light on the use of formal and informal exclusions and will hopefully incentivise or better still reward inclusivity and turn the tide on rising exclusions…but I wonder if it might be time to review head teachers’ powers to exclude pupils.”

On special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) pressures

“I know Minister that you understand the sheer scale of the SEND challenges and that an additional £250 million is nowhere near enough, but it’s not just about funding. It’s also about addressing the mis-aligned incentives across partners, it’s about doing something to balance parental preference and the dire state of resources in Tribunal decision-making. Local authorities have all of the responsibilities for maintaining high needs expenditure within budget but no levers with which to affect this. I urge you Minister, in the strongest of terms, to consider a re-booting of local authorities powers to enable us the best strategic commissioner for SEND that we possibly can be.”

On early help and prevention

“Short term cashable savings from early help are not realistic. It’s extremely difficult to make meaningful interventions in the lives of children and their families when mum and dad are worrying about where the next square meal is coming from and whether the rent is going to get paid this month.”

On mental health services

“There’s very little point in vastly improving the early identification of low-level mental health needs when there are no services available to meet those needs. The NHS Long Term Plan simply must reflect the key importance not only of commissioning adequate mental health services for children, but also for speeding up access to diagnostic, therapy and treatment pathways in children’s wider health services.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

• The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) Ltd is the professional leadership association for Directors of Children’s Services and their senior management teams in England

• The full speech can be found on www.adcs.org.uk

• The ADCS discussion paper on serious youth violence and knife crime mentioned in the speech can be found on www.adcs.org.uk

Under Section 17 Children Act 1989, a child will be considered in need if: they are unlikely to achieve or maintain or to have the opportunity to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health or development without provision of services from the local authority; their health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without the provision of services from the local authority; or they have a disability.


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Yorkshire & Humber Regional Update June 2019

Work Plan

The 2019 work plan for sector-led improvement is now in place. It has a particular emphasis on:

• Customised support for individual LAs with greatest need

• An enhanced role for chief executives and lead members through the Children’s Improvement Board

• A slimmed down self-assessment process

• Introduction of quarterly reporting using a web-based platform.

Quarterly Reporting

The new quarterly reporting arrangements are now in place. The first reports have been produced, the format/value of which will be reviewed in June. Our intention is to extend the reports to include workforce related indicators.

Regional Priorities

There is a strong emphasis on the theme of ‘quality and sufficiency of placements’. A report was commissioned which digs deeper into the detail of volume/spend by locality and region and includes recommendations for action, which are now being considered by ADCS.

An external partner has been commissioned to facilitate some ‘blue sky’ thinking with DCSs about identifying and addressing priorities beyond those identified through self-assessment.

Peer Challenge

37 LA/LSCB children’s services peer challenges have been completed (as of 30 April 2019).

Whilst the ‘core’ three-day peer challenge business process remains at the centre of peer challenge activity, various new peer challenge business processes, which were developed and piloted in 2018 remain on offer for 2019. We have also introduced new front door health checks which will be applied proportionately (six to be undertaken in 2019 – the first of these in autumn 2019).

Leadership Development

Our ‘Senior and Aspirant Leaders Programmes’ have supported the development of over 500 managers over a six-year period. Demand continues to be high, with 60 participants on the 2019 ‘Aspirant Leaders Programme’ and 30 on the ‘Senior Leaders Programme’.

Lead Member Network

There is an active lead member network which meets bi-monthly. The network has recently secured some funding from LGA to further support lead member development and is currently co-producing activity with the SLI coordinator and LGA children’s services regional lead.


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West Midlands Regional Update June 2019

Public Mutual

We received a grant to help us with ensuring that West Midlands Children’s Services (WMCS) has the right infrastructure to manage the growing business. Mutual Ventures are undertaking an options appraisal to be presented to the DCS network in July with the preferred option turned into a business case for September and potential implementation from 1st April 2020.

Managing Risk and Demand

We are working closely with the MHCLG to make the case for continuing support for early help and targeted support as part of the Spending Review activity.

We are also looking at how we might work with CPAG following the successful Cliff Edges / New Horizons conference that brought together S51 Officers, Chief Executives, DCS, ADASS and DPH. A second conference is planned for September to also include Directors of Place continuing the focus on whole family approach and the economy. This set against the need to change the current poor social mobility that exists across the region.

FutureSocial

We recently attended the Social Work Show in Manchester and engaged those attending with our ‘fortune-tellers’ activity.

The NAAS pilot plans are well advanced with each local authority planning their programmes of support for those social work professionals who want to take up the opportunity to get accredited as part of their continuing professional development. This opportunity is only offered to permanent staff in line with the national ADCS agreement.

Migration Fund

With almost all funds now distributed we are now focused on the training and a thorough evaluation to measure the performance and impact of the interventions. The online information, advice and guidance for all package is being finalised and should be available in July on the WMCS website.

West Midlands Safe Centre Feasibility Study

The announcement to the design phase for the successful bids is imminent.

WMCS and the LGA

We have a strong relationship with LGA in the West Midlands including being involved in training days for lead members of children services. The recent local government elections included 27 out of the 33 local authority areas in the region.

Formation of a Regional Commissioning Hub

All fourteen LAs and the two Children’s Trusts have invested in the hub whose aim is to have a strategic market engagement, a regional needs analysis leading to better sufficiency and value for money. Our aim: “West Midlands places for West Midlands children”.


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South West Regional Update June 2019

The South West Regional Update

South West Regional Summer Summit - Building Regional Improvement Capacity and Improving Practice Leadership.

This year’s summer summit is scheduled for Wednesday 26 June 2019 and will include good practice workshops from every South West local authority. Themes of the workshops will include:

• Improved responses to adolescent risks

• Strengthening families and reducing the children in care population

• Using NAAS as a vehicle for practice improvement

• Using business intelligence to develop and deliver the early help offer

• Young people presenting on their work as ambassadors

• Delivering on what’s important to our children and young people.

Other workshops will touch on SEND, quality assurance, integrated place-based services and reducing NEETs.

Each local authority will have four places available to them, the target audience are DCS/ADCS, heads of service, service managers, principal social workers, and those reporting directly to assistant directors across children’s services. The summit will also launch the new Regional Leadership Development Programme (further details below) for which there will be an input from The Staff College as well as an opportunity to shape the programme.

Regional Leadership Development Programme

The Staff College is scoping a Leadership Development Programme for aspirant assistant directors in the South West region. The aim of the programme is to improve the strategic leadership skills of up to fifty managers who report directly to assistant directors in each of the region’s fifteen local authorities. The programme, which is due to start in autumn 2019, will include some ‘coaching and mentoring’ elements in addition to the learning events.

Self-Assessment Peer Challenge 2019

The date for the self-assessment peer challenge will be Friday 6 December 2019. The self-assessment framework has been reviewed with an additional self-assessment on ‘risk factors’ included.

Strategic Children’s Sector-Led Improvement Group – RIIA Board

The strategic group, which has representation from the region’s chief executives, lead members, directors of children’s services and the LGA, has now become the Regional Improvement and Innovation Alliance Board. The methodology for the regional ‘early warning system’ is being consulted on and established.

Thematic Peer Challenge Programme for 2018/19.

The theme this year is ‘improving outcomes for children in need of help and protection’. A programme of six challenges will take place before the end of July 2019. The programme is being organised through the Principal Social Worker Network and regional co-ordinator.

Workforce Development – Frontline Regional Partnership

A new Frontline programme has been established in the South West starting in the summer of 2019. Eight South West local authorities are participating in the programme and providing 12 units of four students: Gloucestershire (3), Swindon (2), Bristol (2), South Gloucestershire (1), Wiltshire (1), BaNES (1), Somerset (1), N Somerset (1).

Commissioning Group Project

The regional commissioning group has developed a project, led by Bath and North East Somerset, to gather intelligence through a ‘market position statement’ on the sufficiency of in-house fostering placements in all of the South West local authorities. The project has gained some external funding from the LGA. It is planned that the ‘market position’ will be presented to representatives from all local authorities at a regional meeting on 17 July 2019 in Taunton.


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South East Regional Update June 2019

The South East Regional Update

Sector-Led Improvement

• The Regional Improvement Plan for 2019-20 with detailed annexes was launched at a regional summit on 22 March 2019

• The plan includes a £130,000 contribution from DfE alongside £162,500 subscription income, and an agreement for quarterly data sharing on the 18 nationally agreed data items

• The plan was drawn up in part on the experience of four ‘Triad Challenge’ days held in February (two more due later in the year), and in part on surveys and feedback from across the region

• The plan has ten priorities:

Actions that will address practice issues:

1. Collaborate to improve provision for complex LAC

2. Collaborate on increasing in-house foster placements

3. Collaborate on ways to promote educational inclusion with SE19 SEND group

4. Share and develop new models of social care practice that fit the times

5. Develop regional quality assurance capacity

Actions that will develop leadership capacity and staff resources:

6. Build leadership capacity across the region

7. Workforce matters; recruitment and retention; agency

Actions that will underpin the cycle of self-assessment and peer challenge:

8. Data benchmarking

9. Annual self-assessment and triad peer challenge

Action to address the funding gap:

10. Increase political lobbying to address the funding gap

• The plan follows a non-stigmatising approach to improvement: the assumption is that there is excellent practice in all authorities; and that all authorities have improvement needs.

• Recently we have:

o Commissioned ADCS to evaluate our Triad Peer Challenge events

o Commissioned The Staff College to conduct a needs analysis for leadership development

o Submitted written representations to the DfE’s consultation on its Leadership Development Programme

o Submitted a bid to the DfE’s complex LAC commissioning call for projects

o Held a joint AD education/SEND lead meeting

o Completed our preparation for sharing quarterly data with DfE


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North West Regional Update June 2019

The North West Regional Update

The response to our agreed annual priorities for collaborative activity is beginning to take shape as we progress our plans. Building on strong partnerships, including with Ofsted and the Regional Schools Commissioner, will be a common characteristic of our approach to driving regional collaboration and improvement activity in 2019/20. Our priorities are organised into three areas, reflecting the sub-groups of NWADCS and Ofsted remits as detailed below:

Education and School Improvement

• Improve progress and attainment at Key Stage 4

• Secure greater inclusion

• Diminish differences for disadvantaged learners.

Safeguarding and Vulnerable Children

• Safely reduce LAC and improve achievement of permanence

• Understand and embed impactful children in need intervention

• Enhance the response to risk and needs of vulnerable adolescents, including care leavers.

Special Education Needs/Disabilities

• Address the variability in quality of EHC Plans

• Increase the inclusivity of local schools, including SEN Support

• Improve transition and preparation for adulthood.

Regional collaboration in 2019/20 will be characterised by a combination of analysis, collaborative projects and practice sharing. Practice sharing will increasingly be delivered in a targeted focused way, through an adapted approach to our Better for Children seminar programme. These will include input and, for the first time, involvement as participants from Ofsted regional team of inspectors. As we move through the first quarter of 2019/20, the following workstreams are forming part of our initial actions:

Education and School Improvement

• Inclusion analysis – a high-level analysis of inclusion data has been completed, highlighting the range in use of not only fixed period and permanent exclusions, but also the use of Special Schools and Alternative Provision. This is being utilised to identify emerging practice, such as the Committed to Inclusion Mark, and shape more in-depth analysis of trends, including exclusions for children with SEND

• Learning from Strategic School Improvement Fund (SSIF) projects – with projects from early rounds of SSIF funding beginning to demonstrate impact and crystallise transferrable learning, we are working with relevant partnerships to shape a rolling programme of practice sharing. This will include a strong focus on disadvantaged learners, English and maths

• Sub-regional projects – utilising legacy funding, our School Improvement Partnership Board has approved the first of a series of sub-regional projects with matching funding awarded to the Greater Manchester Learning Partnership. Based on a model of working with ‘triads’ of schools – the project will provide for school leaders, including those not currently designated as System Leaders to work in new collaborations to innovate.

Safeguarding and Vulnerable Children

• High Risk Placements – adopting consistent regional solutions to the growing challenge of ‘high risk’ placements for young people is a key strand of our work to improve experiences of Looked After Children. Our initial work will draw on novel data collection to better understand common factors prevalent in high risk placements and identify commissioning practice which mitigates risks and secures improved outcomes for young people

• Placement with parents distance travelled exercise – building on our region-wide audit of cases where children were subject of care orders and placed with their parents in 2017, a distance travelled tool is being developed to assess the impact of our strategy for partnership action. Cases previously audited and similar, more recent, cases will be considered using the tool to act as a ‘control’ group

• Common appreciation of permanence – working with Ofsted HMI as part of our evolving partnership, we are hosting a regional forum to establish a ‘common appreciation’ of permanence for the North West. Utilising a bespoke research review under our regional partnership with Research in Practice, the forum will bring together strategic managers and practitioners to share practice and propose characteristics of good permanence planning to shape and improve practice.

Special Educational Needs/Disabilities

• SEND Commissioning – led by Cheshire East, working in partnership with our regional commissioning service – Placements North West – we are progressing planning for a SEND Regional Purchasing System. Working with providers and parents/carers we intend to co-produce a collaborative purchasing system to meet the needs of children/young with creative and innovative service provision

• DCO/DMO Networking – working with our partners in the health economy is key to our plans to address pressing challenges with the quality and impact of services for children with SEND. A new network for designated clinical/medical officers is providing a systematic mechanism for the key officers in local areas to coordinate support and challenge activity. The network seeks to identify barriers and agree common solutions to improving effectiveness of provision for children and young people with SEND

SEND Peer Challenge – building on learning from other areas, we are currently working across LA, Health and Parent/Carer partnerships to develop a model of SEND ‘Peer Challenges’. We will be piloting a new approach to providing external, peer assurance in June – taking a ‘design by doing’ approach in one local area. Based on some core operating principles, the challenges will include a mandate for peers to challenge local areas on aspects requiring improvement and scrutinise areas of good practice.


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East Midlands Regional Update June 2019

The East Midlands Regional Update

Regional Priorities

Our RIIA peer challenge conversations have assisted with the identification of strategic priorities for the region for the coming year:

• Effective commissioning

• Tackling social care recruitment and retention

• Improving practice methodology

• Protecting young people at risk of exploitation

• Improving QA

• Learning from reflective supervision

• Developing safeguarding partnerships

• Reducing parental conflict

• Increasing participation of Children Looked After

• Improving education outcomes for Children Looked After

• Reducing SEND pressures and improving outcomes for SEND

• Increasing school inclusion

• Contributing to teacher recruitment and retention.

The region has a clear understanding of its challenges, priorities and actions, all of which have been captured in a comprehensive RIIA improvement plan that will enable a system approach to drive further regional improvement in children’s services.

Regional Adoption Agency

We work collaboratively in the region to improve opportunities for children to be matched with their forever families. Planning for the East Midlands Regional Adoption Agency (EMRAA) is progressing in the following three areas:

• A Regional Adoption Agency (D2N2 - incorporating Derby City Council, Derbyshire County Council, Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council)

• A regional partnership (L3R- incorporating Leicester City Council, Leicestershire County Council, Lincolnshire County Council and Rutland County Council)

• Two Voluntary Adoption Agencies (CORAM and Faith in Families).

The D2N2 RAA went live on 1 April 2019 with a public launch which started on 28 May 2019. Our activities include:

• Media releases and case studies of adoption success stories for local outlets including TV, radio, press

• Organic social media from Adoption East Midlands social media accounts, shared on partner organisation accounts

• Recruitment events; promotion on partner organisations’ channels (staff newsletters, public emails, digital screen ads).

Parental Conflict

East Midlands’ local authorities have taken a creative approach to utilising the available grant from DWP in regard to parental conflict. Funding has been pooled to promote a system approach that both supports constructive challenge within local and regional partnerships and drives interventions that will increase effective parenting and improve outcomes for children and families whilst reducing the negative impact of conflict between parents on their children. We are in the process of appointing a project manager who will lead on this work, with a focus on maximising the benefits and planning for the long-term sustainability of the approaches that demonstrate positive impact.

Regional Data Platform

We have continued to build on the development of regional infrastructure for data sharing and analysis. The social care indicators have now been complemented with key education and inclusion, early years, SEND and a CSE data set. The regional data platform supports a high challenge, high support improvement framework where data is purposefully utilised in network groups and partnership approaches to safeguard children and young people better and continuously improve outcomes for children and their families in East Midlands.


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North East Regional Update June 2019

Regional Priorities

DCSs have agreed five regional priorities with two cross-cutting themes which will be the focus of activity over the next 12 months. The priorities are:

• Workforce sufficiency

• Quality of practice

• Inclusive education

• SEND

• Commissioning.

The cross-cutting themes are system leadership and outcomes for children and young people. Improvement plans are being developed for each priority and will be taken forward by lead directors and regional networks.

Applied Research Collaboration (ARC)

Last year NE ADCS was approached by Newcastle University to support a bid for the North East and North Cumbria to become an Applied Research Collaboration (ARC), a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funded partnership between universities and organisations in the health and care system, which focuses on improving health and care outcomes via high quality research and evaluation. Work is underway to plan for a future ARC and we hope to hear the outcome of the bid shortly. If successful, funding of nine million pounds will be awarded for five years, with match funding from HEI and care system partners and the work of the ARC beginning in October 2019.

Regional ‘Narrative’ and ‘Deep Dive’ Activity

North East DCSs are often asked why rates of statutory involvement in children’s services in our region are high in comparison with other regions. We are working on a regional narrative to set out what we currently know in relation to this and wider outcomes for children in our region, and the areas where we think further research and analysis may be useful.

We are also carrying out some detailed work to explore the data around the recent increase in LAC rates in the region.

Ministerial Meetings

DCSs in the region will be participating in a short video conference call in June with Nadhim Zahawi to update the Minister on the work of our RIIA, Tyneside Alliance PiP and other areas of good practice from within the region.

Learning from Inspection

We are planning to hold a regional learning event before the summer to share learning from recent inspection activity and focused visits in the region with a particular focus on SEND and ILACS.

DCS Changes

There will be some changes in the region with Margaret Whellans, DCS in Durham and Barbara Shaw, DCS in Redcar and Cleveland having announced their intention to retire later this year. John Pearce, the current DCS/DASS in South Tyneside, will become the new DCS in Durham.


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Greater London Regional Update June 2019

London’s response to the Regional Improvement Alliance approach

Director leads have begun convening thematic workshop to delve deeper into the four priority areas - finance and resources; vulnerable adolescents; workforce; and Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. These workshops will lead to the development of a more detailed work programme. At the meeting of ALDCS on 13 May, directors heard about the progress made in respect of SEND following the thematic workshop held the previous week.

Boroughs continue to submit their signed Memorandums of Understanding, and directors have now agreed to make a financial contribution to the work of the London RIA.

Funding Pressures in Children’s Social Care and High Needs

London DCSs are working with London Councils, Chief Executives and Finance Directors to understand better the financial pressures facing children’s social care budgets and the High Need Block. ISOS has been commissioned to undertake qualitative field work in 14 boroughs, looking at cost drivers, effective practice in managing pressures and potential for collaborative solutions. ALDCS, with the research partners, participated in a roundtable in May to review the emerging findings and help shape conclusions. The final report is due to be published in early summer.

Admissions

London primary schools received 96,598 applications in total this year, a 0.08% decrease compared to last year, according to figures published on National Primary Offer Day 2019 by the Pan London Admissions Board, the body with overall responsibility for co-ordinating school admissions in the capital. 97 per cent of children due to start primary school in London this September have been offered a place at a preferred school. There is growing concern about decreasing rolls at primary schools in some parts of London although this year’s numbers show a relatively small overall decrease. ALDCS continues to support boroughs with places planning, to ensure that all boroughs can meet rising need, particularly in secondary and special schools, as well as cope with reductions in demand at primary in some boroughs.

New Multi-Agency Safeguarding Arrangements

ALDCS is monitoring the implementation of the new safeguarding arrangements and, in January, Directors discussed the changes they are proposing locally. ALDCS has committed to maintaining the London Child Protection Procedures and was represented at a meeting organised by the London Safeguarding Children Board of senior leaders from the three safeguarding partners. At this meeting there was a discussion of the implications of the changes and whether there are other issues, beyond the maintenance of the London Procedures, which would benefit from a consistent approach.

Children in Custody

A multi-agency working group, chaired by a DCS, is working with the MPS to reduce the number of children held in police custody. The group shares data on police requests for accommodation with local authorities on a regular basis. This sharing of data has enabled feedback on cases between custody suites and emergency duty teams and raised awareness and understanding of the issues, thereby improving the police and local authority response to children held in custody. A protocol for London, which supplements the Home Office Concordat on children held in police custody, has been finalised and circulated to Directors and will go live on 10 June. ALDCS has also asked local authority commissioners across London to develop approaches to the co-commissioning of non-secure alternative accommodation for children denied bail – there is insufficient demand for places for any one borough to address this issue.

Pan-London secure settings project

ALDCS continues to work with NHS England (London Region) to explore a new collaborative solution to the provision of Secure Children’s Home capacity in the region. Discussions have progressed to the point of completing an options appraisal and recommendations are now subject to wider engagement with stakeholders, including political leaders.


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Eastern Region Update June 2019

Regional Self-Assessment & DCS Peer Challenge

The annual process for regional self-assessment and peer challenge is nearing culmination. Self-assessments have been prepared by each local authority. These are being moderated, and comments fed back, by volunteers from a different authority within the region prior to a DCS event which will be held at the end of June.

Regional Priorities

Work continues on improvement activity linked to the regional priorities. Additional grant funding has been secured from DfE to support work on:

• Serious youth violence – the planned regional conference has been postponed until September so that a fuller programme can be pulled together

• Leadership training and management succession planning.

Peer Review & Inspection

Peer reviews provide challenge and support in targeted, thematic areas of service. Following the completion of two new frameworks, a two-year programme of peer reviews is being constructed.

Data Benchmarking

• A quarterly tartan rug report for quarter four 2018/19 has been completed

• An annual datapack has been produced; this regional performance report brings together a range of intelligence relating to the region’s performance across children’s services. It includes data for each of the 11 LAs in the region, how they compare with their statistical neighbours (where applicable) and against regional and national averages.

Network Highlights

• A regional ‘Leaving Care’ conference is being hosted in July

• A SEND annual conference is being held in June

• A new regional group for leads of the ‘Early Help Service’ is being constituted

• A regional leaders’ event for DCSs, lead members and chief executives is being planned for September

• A regional approach to continuing healthcare and engagement with CCGs is being looked at in addition to a support network for Liquid Logic, which a lot of authorities in the eastern region are using

A social work recruitment MoU has led to a three-million-pound saving in 2018 over 2017.


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Review of children in need

Jenny Coles, ADCS Vice President, said:

“We welcome the focus of this report on closing the gap in outcomes for disadvantaged children and young people and their peers and the key role education plays in achieving this. The greatest gift we can give to our children is a good education that enables them to thrive. However, it’s important to recognise the wider context in which children live and the barriers they might face to success. Increasing numbers of children are coming to our attention due to domestic abuse, poor parental mental health and substance misuse, and soon child poverty in this country is expected to exceed five million. If children’s social and emotional needs aren’t met, if their families are struggling to afford basic things, such as food and rent, then how can we expect them to be ready to learn?

“Supporting children in need is a multiagency endeavour; it’s vital that all partners including local authorities, schools, health services and others work together to meet the unique needs of children in a joined up, holistic way. This Review has highlighted good practice by local areas in this space. It would be helpful if this could be mirrored at a national level.

“Many children face challenges in their lives, however if their educational outcomes are good and they are able to make progress at school then that provides a valuable cushion against poorer social outcomes in the long run. In its interim report, the government stated is preparedness to change policy where the evidence shows that is what is needed; the evidence is clear there is not enough money in the system to meet the level of need that exists in our communities. Local authorities are having to cut early help and other services our communities rely on, such as children’s centres, and more directly the removal of the Education Services Grant, is compromising our ability to meet the needs of children and families earlier, before they escalate. Cuts in other public services including schools and the police are impacting on children’s outcomes too. This report contributes to the growing evidence base on how disadvantage affects the future of young people. The most worthwhile action government can take to improve outcomes and life chances for all children, including those in need, is to provide long term, sustainable funding for the education and services they and their families rely on, with a strong focus on prevention.”

ENDS


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OCC report on advocacy for children

Jenny Coles, ADCS Vice President, said:

“Children in care should be made aware of their rights, feel they are active participants in the decisions made about them and their lives, and there should be meaningful consideration of their views and wishes before, during and after decisions are made about their lives, such as where they will live. A wide range of professionals advocate for children in care and care leavers, from social workers and virtual school heads to independent reviewing officers and personal advisors, and children in care councils across the country give young people the chance to have a say about the things that matter to them and to shape and influence services for the better. Friends and family can act as advocates too. Children in care also have the right to make representations and complaints to the local authority regarding their care arrangements via independent advocacy.

“Thirty years on since the Children Act 1989 received Royal Assent it is helpful to remind ourselves of the key principles underpinning this legislation not only in relation to a child’s right to advocacy, but also of our preventative duties which have never been sufficiently funded to enable us to work with children and their families earlier, addressing needs as and when they arise. This is compromising our abilities to improve their lives and life chances.”

ENDS


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AC19 Programme

ADCS Annual Conference 2019 - Programme Outline

Draft: Last edited: 17 June 2019

DCS Only Sessions: Wednesday 3 - Thursday 4 July

The first 24 hours of this event are for Directors of Children’s Services (DCSs) only, with DCS only sessions taking place between approx 12:45pm and 6pm on Wednesday 3 July (registration and lunch open from 11:45am); and 8:45am and 10:30am on Thursday 4 July (registration open from 8:00am).

Please contact rebecca.denny@adcs.org.uk for more information on the DCS only programme.


Thursday 4 July

Time Session
11:00am Safeguarding - open to all ADCS members
12:15pm Lunch and networking
1:45pm President’s Address: Rachel Dickinson - event opens to press and other stakeholders as well as ADCS members
2:15pm Ministerial Address: Children’s Minister, Nadhim Zahawi MP
3:15pm Andi Brierley - Child in Care / Care Leaver Specialist
4:30pm Workshop Sessions x 4:
A: Inclusive education
B: Learning from SEND inspections
C: Working together to prevent suicide
D: Funding for children’s services (workshop full)
6:00pm Close
7:30pm Drinks Reception
8:00pm Networking Dinner

Friday 5 July

Time Session
9:00am Workshop Sessions x 3:
E: Investing in the early help workforce
F: Early years and life chances
G: Promoting emotional health and wellbeing
10:45am Charlie Taylor, Chair of the Youth Justice Board
11:45am Ofsted Panel session
12:45pm Barnsley Youth Council
1:15pm President’s Closing Remarks
1:30pm Close of Conference.


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Poverty in the UK

Responding to the publication of a new report on poverty in the UK by Prof. Philip Alston on behalf of the United Nations, Rachel Dickinson, ADCS President, said:

“We welcome Professor Alston’s impactful report which shines a light on disgraceful levels of child poverty and describes the bleak reality for many. An estimated four million children live in poverty in this country today, the majority are from working families. This is soon set to exceed five million. Behind these appalling statistics are vulnerable children and young people who are going to school hungry and unable to learn. Families are being forced to make tough decisions every day between eating or keeping warm and are unable to play a full part in our society.

“Local authorities are ambitious about improving children and families’ lives and outcomes, but our ability to do this is being impeded by a 50% reduction in our budgets and rising levels of need in communities. We are increasingly using money from reserves or diverting funding away from resources and assets our communities rely on, such as children’s centres, youth services and libraries, which provide a safety net for children and families before their problems reach crisis point. It’s a vicious cycle.

“Poverty damages childhoods; it damages life chances; and it damages the future economic prosperity of our country. We cannot go on as we are, the stakes are too high. A national focus on tackling both the symptoms and root causes of poverty is long overdue, we urge government to lead this endeavour from the front as a matter of urgency. We need a cross party, cross departmental strategy that extends beyond a single parliamentary term. If we do nothing we will look back in shame.”


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Use of unregulated settings

Commenting on the use of unregulated care settings, Charlotte Ramsden, Chair of the ADCS Health, Care and Additional Needs Policy Committee, said:

“Unlike children’s homes, which are registered with Ofsted and inspected regularly, minimum standards for unregulated 16 plus provision are not set out in law. If used well they can provide appropriate and flexible options but we recognise and share the concern that this is not always the case. It requires local authorities to make sure a young person’s needs are matched to the service and authorities must take their own steps to ensure that needs are met and that the accommodation is suitable. This should be done via a proper plan as well as quality assurance and monitoring. This will include health and safety considerations, auditing staff DBS checks and assessing the suitability of landlords, plus conducting unannounced visits and providing support plans for young people. Local authorities may also choose to work together to hold providers to account and address poor practices by putting in place improvement plans or ceasing to commission services where previously identified actions have not been resolved.

“We recognise the role unregulated provision can play within the care placement market and the flexibility it offers when linked to a clear plan based on the needs of a young person and a clear support plan. There is a distinction to be made between using it as part of a considered move compared with using it to deal with a crisis when no other accommodation is available. Total regulation would limit this flexibility so we are keen to see all providers take their responsibilities seriously and welcome increased expectations around standards and transparency as to how those will be delivered.”


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New support for victims of domestic abuse

Rachel Dickinson, ADCS President, said:

“Domestic abuse can happen to anyone, anywhere and it can be fatal. Upwards of two million men and women experienced domestic abuse last year and it remains the most common reason why children and families come to the attention of children’s social care. We welcome proposals to improve vital support for victims and their families, however, any new legal duty must be fully funded if it is to have the desired impact. Moreover, today’s announcement remains reactive rather than preventative, as do many of the proposals outlined in the government’s draft Domestic Abuse Bill. If we are to turn the tide of this endemic problem, we must maintain a strong focus on early help and prevention, working with children and families at risk of domestic abuse as well as perpetrators. We are committed to working with government and others to this end. Recent research puts the annual social and economic costs of domestic abuse at a staggering £66 billion – preventing domestic abuse in the first place will not only save money but, crucially, it will save lives.”

ENDS


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Halting knife crime is a multi-agency endeavour

Barely a day goes by without hearing about another senseless act of violence or loss of young life due to knife crime. Knife crime isn’t limited to a particular place, ethnicity or gender. It can result in life-changing injuries – or be fatal. These incidents have a devastating impact on victims, their families and the communities where they live, and beyond.

I am pleased the Prime Minister has acknowledged that we cannot “arrest” our way out of this situation. Our members are clear, this must be treated as a safeguarding concern – many of the young people caught up in criminal activities are being exploited themselves. Government has made some funding available for the police and projects aimed at reducing youth violence, but much greater investment in our children and young people is needed if we are to make a difference. A consultation which proposes a duty on specific organisations is currently underway, but is this the right solution? It is likely to exacerbate the pressures already facing frontline professionals, including social workers, and it certainly won’t address the reasons why a young person might carry or use a knife in the first place.

Life is getting harder for growing numbers of young people and their families due to the unintended impact of austerity and a series of welfare reforms. Local authorities have worked hard to manage reducing budgets against the tide of increasing need but this has been at the expense of non-statutory parts of the system and other community services. Hundreds of youth centres have closed reducing the availability of positive activities. Add to this staggering levels of child poverty and stubbornly high numbers of young people not in education, employment or training leaving young people with nowhere to go, making them more susceptible to exploitation.

Tackling knife crime is a multi-agency endeavour; local authorities, the police, schools and health services as well as the voluntary sector and the public, have a vital role to play in keeping young people safe. Treating serious youth violence as a public health issue, by which I mean tackling its causes as well as its consequences, makes absolute sense. Learning lessons from others about how they’ve tackled similar issues will be important but we must also look closer to home, at the changes needed in our own country to ensure it works for all children.

The task may not be straightforward, but every young life is precious and must be protected.

Rachel Dickinson is Executive Director People at Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council and ADCS President 2019/20.

This article first appeared in the MJ on 16 April 2019 | https://www.themj.co.uk/Halting-knife-crime-is-a-multi-agency-endeavour/213424


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Comment: ADCS DCS Update 2019

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) today, Tuesday 30 April, publishes the directors of children’s services (DCS) update 2019 using data from the Association’s membership year 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019.

ADCS has gathered and recorded detailed information about changes in post holders of the statutory DCS role since the Association was established in 2007. We also record the number of directors who hold both statutory roles of DCS and director of adult social services (DASS), referred to as ‘twin hat’ arrangements. The report offers some year-on-year comparisons in order to highlight trends and patterns of change.

Rachel Dickinson, ADCS President, said: “Stability in leadership is integral to the delivery of high quality children’s services. Data from our membership year 2018/19 shows there were a total of 51 changes in DCS postholders across 40 local authorities, a significant drop from the year before. It is too soon to tell whether this will form a future trend, but it means that nearly three quarters of councils experienced no change in DCS during the 12 month period. Many of the changes were short-term interim arrangements pending permanent appointments and have been filled by former DCSs or assistant directors/second tier officers. In addition to less overall change in the reporting period, the average tenure of a DCS in the same local authority has increased from 26 months in 2017/18 to 29 months in 2018/19, and for the first time we have calculated the average length of time served as a DCS when factoring in cumulative time spent in multiple local authorities, is approximately 4 years. Moreover, many DCSs have been the DCS in a number of local authorities – further evidence of experience and expertise remaining in the sector.

“Since ADCS was established over 70% of local authorities have at some point had ‘twin hat’ arrangements, but in recent years there has been an increasing trend in local authorities disaggregating services, coupled with low numbers of local authorities combining services. The number of twin hatters is at its lowest level since 2012. Few conclusions can be drawn from this, it is likely this picture will continue to change as local authorities explore arrangements to meet changing local needs. Some directors have overall responsibility for both children’s and adult services, but they hold statutory responsibility for children’s services only. Whatever the structure there must be a clear and ultimate line of accountability for children’s outcomes in a local area.

“In 2018/19, there were 17 new permanent DCS appointments, of which 13 were assistant director/second tier level officers. The DCS role is challenging but it’s the best job in the world. There is always a need to encourage more aspiring leaders to the role. We urge government to move at pace to invest in systems leadership development programmes for future generations of DCSs as well as those currently in the role.

“It is something to be proud of that for nearly a decade we have had a similar number of male and female DCSs, however, there are currently not nearly enough black and minority ethnic directors across the country. ADCS is clear that those who have the ambition and capability to become leaders should have the opportunity to progress and we will be reporting on ethnicity starting from next year in order to bring greater visibility to this area. In addition to continuing to press government for investment in leadership development in general, ADCS will also press for a greater focus on training and support to develop the future black and minority ethnic leaders of tomorrow.”

The full DCS update 2019 can be found here.

ENDS


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ADCS DCS Update - 2019

ADCS gathers and records information about changes in post holders of the statutory DCS role; we also record the number of directors who hold both statutory roles of DCS and DASS (we refer to these posts as ‘twin hat’).

This analysis focusses on the ADCS membership year 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019. It also offers year-on-year comparisons, going back to 2007, in order to highlight trends and patterns of change.

View report


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ADCS President’s Speech 2019

ADCS President 2019/20, Rachel Dickinson, delivered her inaugural speech on Thursday 11 April 2019.

View speech


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EU Settlement Scheme Home Office Guidance

EU Settlement Scheme - Home Office Guidance for Local Authorities & Health and Social Care Trusts

The EUSS LAC information pack is currently being revised by the Home Office.

Colleagues should refer to the mainstream guide available at https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families

The Settlement Resolution Centre also has a designated telephone number for those who are helping others to apply to the scheme;

Telephone: 0300 790 0566

Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays), 8am to 8pm

Saturday and Sunday, 9:30am to 4:30


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Comment: Safeguarding of children missing from care and out of...

Stuart Gallimore, ADCS President, said:

“Finding the right placement for the children in our care and keeping them safe from harm is a priority for our members, however, it is important to note that the issue of out of area placements is not as straight forward as often suggested. Sir Martin Narey recognises this in his review of residential care. Whilst children remaining close to their communities, friends and wider family is the preferred option, this is not always in their best interest and a child may be placed further afield where, for example, their needs can’t be met locally or for safety reasons. Local authorities consider many factors as part of this process, including the needs of the child, the support they require, their views and preferences as well as availability, geography and cost. The number of children in care has increased by 24% over the past decade yet there is a national shortage of foster carers and a growing disconnect between the location of residential children’s homes and need which continues to be a challenge for us. Homes are increasingly opening in regions where housing is cheaper which is contributing to this complex picture.

“It takes the concerted effort of all safeguarding partners, including local authorities, the police, health services and schools as well as the wider community, to identify children who are at risk of harm and disrupt and prosecute those who seek to exploit them. It is important to recognise that running away is often a symptom of a wider problem, we rely on all agencies and the public to look out for all children and respond to their behaviour appropriately, recognising their vulnerability. Our ultimate goal must be to work together to address the root causes of why children go missing in the first place and to keep them safe from harm.

“ADCS will be responding formally to this call for evidence in due course.”

ENDS


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Comment: PAC report on children’s social care

Responding to the Public Accounts Committee report on children’s social care Stuart Gallimore, ADCS President, said:

“Local authorities are committed to improving children’s lives and outcomes but there is simply not enough money in the system to meet the increasing level of need in our communities. No one can underestimate how hard we have worked to make savings but this has been at the expense of the very services that are designed to prevent children and families’ needs from escalating and reduce future demand. Despite the significant financial and demand pressures we face Ofsted’s latest annual report acknowledges an improving picture in the quality and overall effectiveness of children’s services across the country.

“Some level of variation in levels of demand, activity and spend between local authorities is to be expected and this is driven by factors largely out of our control but central government can, and must, make a difference by tackling the wider social determinants that fuel demand, such as deprivation and the prevalence of domestic abuse, parental substance misuse and poor mental health. A child poverty reduction strategy would be a good place to start. The issue of variability should not be used to suggest there is scope for more efficiencies because there is not. Even high performing, well-run, low spending councils, like my own, simply have nowhere left to go. Collectively, children’s services overspent by more than £800 million in the last financial year and face a funding gap of £3 billion by 2025, just to stand still. It is crucial that a compelling case is made for our services to be properly resourced ahead of the Spending Review and we would be happy to work with the DfE on this on behalf of children. Children’s services urgently need to be put on a sustainable financial footing, or I worry about the nature and type of services we will be able to provide to vulnerable children and their families.”

ENDS


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Comment: National evaluation of the Troubled Families Programme

Stuart Gallimore, ADCS President, said:

“Troubled Families funding pays for a range of things like family coaching, domestic abuse interventions and positive activities for children and young people. Some of the government’s claims to date about the success of the programme have been challenged but I am under no doubt that it is getting real results in lots of local areas. This is a complex area of work, many of the families we work with are facing multiple issues, such as poor mental health, substance misuse and domestic abuse, but the evidence suggests the programme is making a positive difference to the lives of many children and families. Whole family and multi-agency working is also being strengthened. The pressures we face in children’s services are such that much-needed funding for this programme is currently propping up our efforts to act early and offer support before families reach crisis point. The looming cliff edge of this funding ending in 2020 is very real, and very worrying. We need urgent assurances from government about the future of the programme.”

ENDS


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A call to arms against poverty

A call to arms against poverty

Historically, we have made strides in reducing child poverty in this country, but it’s now rising. Currently 4 million children live in poverty in England, two thirds are from working households. This figure is set to exceed 5 million in the next few years. Just last year, Professor Philip Alston published a damning report on poverty in Britain which brought to bear the sobering reality for many, and this, in one of the richest countries in the world. The government’s response was disappointing, to say the least, with several spokespeople disagreeing with the unequivocal analysis.

You only have to look to see that poverty is real. Up and down the country, the number of food donation boxes alongside collection points for sanitary products and warm clothing for the homeless in our local supermarkets is growing. Children are arriving at school hungry, families are queuing up at food banks and schools are buying coats and even washing clothes for pupils and their families. I fear these things could become part of the wallpaper. Every child deserves the opportunity to succeed but poverty robs them of this. Children living in poverty are more likely to have poorer health outcomes than those living in less deprived communities as well as poorer nutrition both of which influence their ability to succeed in school.

Poverty is front and centre of the work that local authorities do with children and families. When I talk about poverty I am talking about more than simply a lack of access to basic necessities, such as food and clothing, but also poverty of opportunity including children with special educational needs being squeezed out of the mainstream education system or those living in rural areas having limited access to essential public services e.g. youth centres and libraries. It is our job to help children through this but a sustained period of austerity, a 50% reduction in our budgets since 2010 and rising need in our communities has impacted on the range and reach of services we are able to provide to vulnerable children and their families.

Poverty is not inevitable. For central government, investing in strategies that reduce childhood poverty is both a smart and efficient economic policy as well as the right thing to do. We have reduced poverty before so we can make a choice to do it again – if we do nothing we will look back in shame.

Stuart Gallimore is Director of Children’s Services at East Sussex County Council and outgoing President of ADCS 2018/19.


This column was first published in The MJ on 6 March 2019 | www.themj.co.uk/Its-time-to-act-on-child-poverty/213095


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FCYP and HCAN Policy Committee Update February 2019

The Families, Communities & Young People and the Health, Care & Additional Needs Policy Committees

The Families, Communities & Young People (FCYP) and the Health, Care & Additional Needs (HCAN) Policy Committees met jointly in London on Tuesday 22 January to discuss shared areas of interest.

The group received an update from the DfE on secure children’s homes. The DfE has two distinct workstreams in train, the first is aimed at increasing capacity in this highly specialised area of provision via the funding of upgrades to the existing estate and supporting LAs and regional consortia in Yorkshire, the West Midlands and Greater London to bring forward new provision. The other area of work is the establishment of central commissioning arrangements for welfare beds, similar to the arrangements that have been in place for a number of years with justice placements. The group welcomed both the update and this work noting the consistently high levels of demand for welfare placements as well as the difficulties in building a suitable support package to keep a young person safe whilst seeking a secure bed. The group requested the DfE try and draw health partners in here, reforms to secure justice provision and Tier 4 are also in train so it would be helpful to bring this work closer together to focus less on routes of entry and more on how best to meet children and young people’s needs. It’s also important to recognise the interplay between the demand for secure children’s homes placements and the pressures in the wider residential care market.

The group was then joined by Prof. Judith Masson from the University of Bristol to discuss the research she is leading on regarding the relationship between care, care proceedings and how and when children leave care. For this piece of work Judith worked with several local authorities, linking care data held in children’s services with court proceedings data held by the LA’s legal teams. This proved a difficult exercise as many legal teams do not have uniform case management systems. This cohort analysis could be used to understand the impact of court decisions as well as policy changes e.g. the PLO. The conversation broadened to wider family justice matters and some common issues being experienced across the country to feed into future discussions with government departments and other stakeholders e.g. variation in judicial decision-making, responding to contextual safeguarding risks and sharing good practice. Representatives from Cafcass then joined the group to discuss the development of their future work plan and any opportunities to work together (and with others) on shared areas of interest.

There was a short update on the development of Regional Adoption Agencies (RAAs) across the country, several are now live and a significant number are scheduled to go live in the coming months. Governance arrangements and funding were cited as critical factors to get right by those who are already part of live arrangements, noting RAAs are not an organisation in their own right but a partnership – LAs still retain their statutory duties in relation to adoption. Discussions also touched on the Education Select Committee’s ongoing inquiry on SEND and the impact of the Home Office’s 2017 concordat on children in custody in terms of diverting young people away from police cells.

The FCYP Policy Committee will next meet on Thursday 23 May in London and the HCAN Policy Committee will next meet on Friday 10 May in London.


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RS and EA Policy Committee Update - February 2019

Resources & Sustainability and Educational Achievement Policy Committees

The Resources & Sustainability (R&S) and Educational Achievement (EA) Policy Committees met jointly on Thursday 31 January in London to discuss shared areas of interest. The meeting was largely focused on issues around SEND with representatives from ISOS attending to present their LGA commissioned report on SEND budget pressures, Have we reached a ‘tipping point’? Following this, representatives from the Department for Education (DfE) joined the committee to discuss pressures on the high needs block.

The committee also discussed the forthcoming Education Select Committee inquiry into the impact of SEND reforms, and views were garnered to contribute to evidence which Charlotte Ramsden, Chair of HCAN committee is giving on behalf of ADCS. Finally, the committee discussed an upcoming NAO ‘value for money study’ into support for pupils with SEND, scheduled for Spring this year, for which they are seeking ADCS views.

In December R&S led on the development of the Association’s submission to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee inquiry into the funding of children’s services. Members also attended a Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government roundtable to discuss the Designated Schools Grant and high needs block ahead of the spending review.

Since the last meeting of the EA Policy Committee in November 2018, the committee has led on a response to the Department for Education’s consultation on draft statutory guidance for Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education. Further, during the development of the Elective Home Education Survey, published in November, ADCS was approached by a production company and asked to include some additional questions to help inform an upcoming episode of Dispatches about home education. The episode airs on Monday 4 February on Channel 4.

The R&S committee will meet again on 17 May in London and the EA Policy Committee will next meet jointly with the SPI Policy Committee on 31 May in London to discuss shared areas of interest.


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SPI Policy Committee Update - February 2019

Standards, Performance & Inspection Policy Committee

The Standards, Performance & Inspection (SPI) Policy Committee met on Thursday 24 January in London. All local authorities (LAs) and trusts that had received either a short or standard visit under Ofsted’s ILACS framework in 2018 - the first full year of operation - were invited to this meeting to reflect on their experiences.

This wider group reflected that the ILACS was not as all-consuming as its predecessor, the SIF, however it was still intensive and the fluid nature of the fieldwork added an extra layer of complexity; inspectors followed their noses rather than a set timetable. Some key points raised in the discussion included:

  • Week zero cannot be considered as a notification period, the inspection begins the same day as the director of children’s services receives the call, this is an intensive period in which a significant volume of data is shared and key lines of enquiry are identified ahead of fieldwork
  • A mixed picture in terms of additional information requests emerged, some LAs were asked for a handful of things whilst others submitted hundreds of pages of additional evidence during the inspection
  • There is little focus on the corporate context within which children’s services operates and the ILACS does not consider partnership working in a meaningful way (one or two LA reps reported partners were drawn into the inspection, primarily via case file involvement), this was felt to be a significant shortcoming given the financial context we all work in.

In the final stages of this discussion the group reflected on the role of ADCS in supporting DCSs going through the inspection and wondered if there was an offer that could usefully be made by ADCS to LAs that are judged to be inadequate under the ILACS?

The group was then joined by representatives of the What Works Centre in Children’s Social Care – SCIE and Social Finance – to share their progress to date and to discuss the development of ‘insight communities’. The Centre is mining existing information, data and insights and is seeking to keep new burdens to a minimum. In time, it hopes to create a sharing platform for new and existing evidence. Most recently they’ve completed some work with an LA to look at the front door, tracking what happens when an initial contact to children’s social care is not accepted as a referral and a child’s journey over time. The Centre is keen to expand this work further with other LAs.

Beyond this the group considered the forthcoming themes for the multi-inspectorate’s joint area inspections: responses to children at risk of mental health issues; prevention; and, contextual safeguarding as well as Ofsted’s consultation on a new school inspection framework from September 2019 onwards. The framework pays much greater attention to inclusions, exclusions, off-rolling and gaming. SPI will lead on the development of the Association’s response to this exercise.

The group will meet again on 31 May jointly with the Association’s Educational Achievement Policy Committee to discuss shared areas of interest.


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The B-word

The B-word
Brexit is consuming all of the focus and attention in Westminster and beyond. It is inescapable. It seems to permeate the nation’s every waking hour yet, at the time of writing, the way forward for the country was still unclear. Meanwhile there are a growing number of issues that require urgent action, and crucially, investment.

As we enter our ninth year of austerity it’s the issues of the day affecting children, and young people and families, that keep me awake at night as a director of children’s services. From the growing numbers of families reaching crisis point requiring the help and support of children’s social care, the fact our funding isn’t keeping pace with levels of need in our communities, the budget pressures in schools, the recent uptick in youth offending rates, the loss of children’s centres and skilled youth workers as we seek to rob Peter to pay Paul. More broadly, we know that benefit changes, poor housing and the growth in unstable employment also have an impact on children’s life chances.

Sadly, the issue of child poverty doesn’t grab the headlines. The sight of food donation boxes alongside collection points for sanitary products and warm clothing for the homeless now so commonplace in supermarkets they simply blend into the background. There are around 12 million children and young people in this country, four million of whom currently live in poverty, in a couple of years time it’s estimated this figure will top five million. I repeat, five million children and young people, the majority of whom live in working households, slip into poverty by the end of 2021.

So, what does this mean? It means cold homes, overcrowding, temporary accommodation, uncertainty, stress and family breakdown. It means charities stepping in to fill the gaps left by the state and schools paying for coats and shoes, washing clothes and opening up over the summer months to provide meals to pupils and their families. This doesn’t sound like a country that works for all children to me. We simply can’t go on as we are but the eyes of the decision makers and the media are firmly trained elsewhere. The outcome of Brexit.

Stuart Gallimore is Director of Children’s Services at East Sussex County Council and President of ADCS 2018/19.

This column was first published in The MJ on 30 January 2019 | www.themj.co.uk/The-B-word-problem/212823


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Comment: Children’s services inspection and demand figures

Steve Crocker, Chair of the ADCS Standards, Performance and Inspection Policy Committee, said:

On children’s services inspection
“It is right that we are held to account for the work we do with children and families. Robust and effective inspection is an important part of the continuous improvement journey and Ofsted’s latest annual report acknowledges an improving picture in the quality and overall effectiveness of children’s services across the country. Where services are not yet good enough we are implementing Regional Improvement Alliances to bring about further improvements. International comparisons also show that England has a safe child protection system compared to many other countries. ADCS is clear that a single worded judgement cannot convey the complexities of delivering children’s services.”

On demand in children’s services
“Years of austerity and reducing local authority budgets has inevitably affected our work with children and families, while rising child poverty and a greater prevalence of domestic abuse is fuelling need for our services. Greater public and professional awareness of risks, such as sexual and criminal exploitation of children has also contributed to an increase in demand, although tackling these issues are both a necessary and positive development. There is not enough money in the system nationally to meet the level of need in our communities. Local authorities are having to cut non-statutory and early help services, that prevent the needs of children and families from reaching crisis point which makes no moral, or financial, sense and will only result in greater human costs in the future. We will continue to work tirelessly to support children and families to thrive but we need long term, sustainable funding for children’s services.”

ENDS


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Yorkshire & Humber Region Update December 2018

Work Plan

The 2018 regional work plan for sector-led improvement emphasises:

  • Greater rigour and accountability
  • Greater join up of regional processes, systems and structures
  • Focus on a few key regional issues in depth
  • Coherent support for individual LAs where needs are greatest.

All DCSs have signed the 2018 SLI Memorandum of Understanding which emphasises the above and clarifies the expectations of each and all LAs in their support of SLI activities.

Self-Assessment

Our annual self-assessment process is now in its seventh iteration. Each year it is enhanced. In 2018 it has been further refined to include new signatures of risk and to be ILACS compliant. LAs will complete their submissions in December and take part in a challenge event in January 2019 as a result of which we will produce a regional capacity index.

Regional Priorities

Annual self-assessment outputs include a regional capacity index highlighting relative strengths and areas for development. The three key areas for development in 2018 are being addressed as systems issues and are being pump primed with a ‘Directors Fund’ which is accessed by bids. The themes are: quality and sufficiency of placements; outcomes for vulnerable groups (attendance/exclusions/EHE) and, KS1/2. All three have project plans in place. Work continues on the three regional priorities with regular reports to lead members and DCSs.

Peer Challenge

34 LA/LSCB children’s services peer challenges have been completed (as of 30 October 2018). Whilst the ‘core’ three-day peer challenge business process remains at the centre of peer challenge activity, various new peer challenge business processes were developed and piloted in 2017. These have been applied to:

  • JTAI themes
  • SEND (transitions)
  • Domestic violence
  • Children’s mental health: Working closely with CCG commissioners a business process for children’s mental health peer challenge has been developed and is being piloted across two local areas. This was concluded and positively evaluated in November 2018. Mental health commissioners have shown an interest in rolling this out to embrace STP footprints.

A self-assessment schedule has been constructed for new multi-agency safeguarding arrangements which reflects the expectations of Working Together. A peer challenge for this process has also been developed, but not yet applied.

Leadership Development

Our Senior and Aspirant Leaders Programmes have supported the development of over 500 managers over a six-year period. Programmes for 2018 have now been completed with exceptionally positive feedback. We are offering, for the first time, executive coaching to participants from the Senior Leaders Programme. The programme utilises regional expertise that is being developed through an Executive Coaching Programme provided by The Staff College.

Working with Health Education England, we have jointly commissioned a ‘Systems Masterclass’ for leaders in health and LAs (presented and facilitated by Charles Leadbetter). The event was filmed and is available on our CSWM platform. This, our first joint venture with HEE, attracted over 100 participants. Evaluations were positive, and we have now secured access for LA managers to a range of HEE systems workshops and are exploring further collaborative activity on addressing systems issues.

22 senior managers have commenced a four-day ‘Executive Coaching’ programme to develop their individual expertise as coaches and to create a regional pool of coaches who will offer coaching to newly appointed senior managers in the region. We are piloting this model of support with alumni from our most recent senior leaders programme (see above).

Lead Member Network

There is an active lead member network which meets bi-monthly. The network has recently secured some funding from LGA to support further lead member development and is currently co-producing activity with the SLI coordinator and the LGA children’s services regional lead.


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West Midlands Region Update December 2018

Regional Improvement Alliance

  • Self-evaluation and challenge cycle

This year’s self-evaluation cycle is underway. In the light of reflections from previous years, and to strengthen the value of peer challenge activity, there will be a series of peer challenge visits between small groups of LAs commencing in the New Year. Following that, and the identification of strengths and areas for development from moderation processes, a regional showcase and learning event will take place in the spring followed by regional improvement activity.

  • Improvement support

Following the region’s bid for funding, the DfE has confirmed a £300k grant to support the following areas of improvement activity:

  • Resource to release time for people to undertake improvement activities
  • Leadership and management development, including succession planning, coaching and mentoring.

The region is also making good use of Partners in Practice activity with nine out of fourteen local authorities engaging with Partner in Practice to focus on different areas of improvement.

  • System engagement

Governance discussions have identified that the engagement and involvement of chief executives and directors of finance needs strengthening. Through discussions with regional ADASS and DPH colleagues it has been agreed that there is merit in strengthening that engagement through a People focus, rather than each sector having their own event, and reinforcing the lobbying messages. A regional workshop is being developed for the early spring with the support of the LGA.

DCS Residential November 18

The DCS network residential, ‘Managing risk and demand - our people: our places’, sponsored by the LGA, took place at Warwick University on the 27/ 28 November. This is now an established element of the regional improvement work and has been important in the building of a common vision and consensus about improvement and regional opportunities.

The focus this year was on our cross-cutting theme; managing risk and demand; recognising the systems leadership role needed. Assistant directors were involved in some aspects of the programme as part of the succession planning and improvement thinking.

FutureSocial

An agency showcase event took place to focus on permanent staffing. The aim of the event, which involved nine agencies and 14 Councils and Trusts, was to facilitate access to the agencies permanent offerings and to scope the potential for collaborative action. The comments below represent typical responses to the event:

  • From an Agency, “It is an excellent idea to invite agencies in to a presentation of this nature as it really forces us to think about what we offer, how we can do more and where a direct relationship with agencies could be beneficial for organisations in your region. With local authorities under increasing pressure it is refreshing to see them coming to us to see where we can be innovative. It is also incumbent on us to ensure solutions are achievable, cost effective and fulfil an actual need.”
  • From a local authority, “Well done for bringing everyone together. Important for follow up sessions to be arranged asap to keep up the momentum.”.

Migration Fund

Grants have now been released to all 14 local authorities for their work with unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Funding for the voluntary sector, aimed at creating a sustainable model, will be released in January. The training programme is shaping up.

West Midlands Safe Centre Feasibility Study

The region was successful in securing funding from the DfE to carry out a feasibility study for a new secure unit in the region. A hub and spoke approach is proposed to support young people in times of crisis and step-down arrangements will also be on offer to boost resilience and prevent further crises. If successful, the initial feasibility study will lead into a design phase (2019/20) and then a building phase (2020/21).

Troubled Families Unit

We are working with the Troubled Families Unit to address our conversion from attachments to payment by results. Several authorities have recovery plans and are working hard to rectify the matter.


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South West Region Update December 2018

Self-Assessment Peer Challenge

The self-assessment peer challenge for 2018 will take place on 7 December 2018. The day will be attended by management teams from all the region’s local authorities who will work in triads on their self-assessment position. The self-assessments have now been completed and distributed to allow the necessary preparation for the event. The challenge day will identify regional priorities for sector-led improvement for 2019.

Leadership Summit – 9 January 2019

A leadership summit, to launch the South West Regional Improvement Alliance, will take place in January 2019 for all the region’s local authority chief executives, lead members and directors of children’s services. A Memorandum of Understanding has been circulated with the plan that all local authorities will confirm their agreement by December 2018.

Regional Data Benchmarking

The annual benchmarking report 2017/18 and quarter one report for 2018/19 were released in August 2018 and have been sent to the regional performance leads, directors of children’s services and chief executives in each local authority. A set of presentation slides which provide some analysis of the regional data set for quarter one has been circulated to performance leads in each local authority.

A workshop event, ‘Knowing how well your children’s services are doing’, for lead members and the chairs of scrutiny panels took place on 18 October 2018. The event was well attended and briefed members on the format of the regional report prior to its regular distribution to lead members after quarter two.

The quarter two benchmarking report was released in mid-November 2018. On 27 November 2018 the Assistant Director Network examined the report and provided some narrative analysis of regional performance. This analysis will be available for the self-assessment challenge in December.

Strategic Children’s Sector-Led Improvement Group

The strategic group, which has representation from the region’s chief executives, lead members, directors of children’s services and the LGA, have agreed their terms of reference. The group is now developing a working protocol for the Regional Improvement Alliance which will be subject to agreement by all local authorities at the ‘Regional Leadership Summit’ to be held on 9 January 2019.

Regional Learning Event – Quality Assurance Workshop - 9 November 2018

All local authorities sent representatives to a QA workshop led by Essex as a Partner in Practice event. 50 people were in attendance and the workshop enabled participants to share good practice and resources in QA processes.

Thematic Peer Challenge Programme 2017/18

Eight thematic peer challenges have been held in the 2017/18. A workshop to evaluate learning from the most recent challenge, which focussed on neglect, took place on 13 September 2018. A draft evaluation report has been produced and was presented to the regional sector-led improvement group on 22 November 2018 for approval.

Thematic Peer Challenge Programme for 2018/19

A framework has been agreed for the thematic peer challenge programme for 2018/19. The theme will be focused on improving outcomes for children in need of help and protection. As in previous years, local authorities will be able to work in pairs or threes to undertake the hosting and challenging roles. Each local authority is aiming to take part in the challenge before July 2019. The programme will be organised through the Principal Social Worker Network and Regional Co-ordinator.

Regional Partnership with Research in Practice

Arrangements for the regional ‘Tailored Support’ offer are now in development. After consultation with the RIP Link Officers’ Network, a regional conference is being organised by RIP to take place on 5 December 2018. The conference will be hosted by Devon County Council in Exeter and will focus on ‘getting to good’; involving children, young people and families in the co-production of appropriate provision. In addition, there will be up to four regional workshops open to all local authorities, one of the themes for which will be ‘Identifying and responding to sexual harm of children and young people’.

Strategic Improvement Plan for Sector-Led Improvement 2018- 2021

A RAG rated plan which will demonstrate progress on regional priorities has now been discussed at the regional Sector-Led improvement Group.

Workforce Development

A regional partnership to introduce a South West Frontline programme has been provisionally agreed. Individual local authorities are in the process of formalising the agreement with Frontline. It is intended that the South West programme will commence in September 2019 creating placements for approximately 50 students.


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South East Region Update December 2018

Sector-Led Improvement

  • All 19 authorities have agreed to participate in a self-assessment peer challenge process. There will be 6 triads holding all-day challenge sessions in February 2019, leading up to a regional improvement summit on 22 March 2019. The main principle is a non-stigmatising approach to improvement, including the assumption that there is excellent practice in all authorities and that all authorities have improvement needs
  • All DCS colleagues now have access, via a password-controlled area of the website, to each other’s self-assessments, data profiles, annual conversation letters and improvement “asks” and “offers”
  • The steering group for sector-led work will convert to the RIA steering group in April 2019
  • A consultation draft of a new MoU has been released, including proposals for third-party disclosure of concerns or worries about potential service failure, and for data sharing with DfE and others
  • Our new project considering “LAC placement issues for vulnerable young people and adolescents (10-18 age group)” has now analysed data on over 800 complex-needs placements across the region. Discussion with DfE commissioning colleagues is progressing to support further the development of the project which is sponsored by Lucy Butler (DCS Oxfordshire).
  • Our SEND19 Group, Data Benchmarking Group and Regional Adoption and Special Guardianship Leadership Board continue
  • The Children’s Social Care Workforce: Memorandum of Co-operation (MoC) for managing the supply and demand of children’s social workers phases one and two is now operational; the MoC has been tested in anger recently and two authorities have parted company
  • Networks for assistant directors for safeguarding (or equivalent) and education (or equivalent) continue to provide mutual support.

For further details go to www.seslip.co.uk.


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North West Region Update December 2018

Launch of the NWADCS Directory of Support

As part of the North West’s development of a Regional Improvement Alliance and our commitment to a strong sector-led improvement offer a ‘Directory of Support’ has been developed. This is based on the principle that all local authorities have something to offer, regardless of their current circumstances.

To ensure the directory operates in a proportionate and impactful way, directors of children’s services have agreed that all local authorities will be offered the opportunity to categorise their offer of support. This will enable effective brokering and a more co-ordinated approach to providing and accessing improvement support within the region. The categories are:

  • Sharing key documentation – strategies, action plans, datasets, policies and similar that can be shared widely or made available to share on request
  • Structured practice sharing – dedicated agenda item through relevant sub-group; carousel at NWADCS; one-off session delivered locally to all LAs; input to ‘Better for Children’ Seminar - Working Together to Improve’
  • On-site peer challenge – willingness to match areas of good practice with requests for on-site peer challenge, leading or being part of teams for thematic challenges
  • Peer-to-peer – a more in depth, ‘matched’ offer to LAs in particular need of support e.g. coaching/mentoring; detailed discussion and sharing of plans between teams; ‘critical friend’ review of plans, policies and action plans or similar; external ‘desktop’ audit activity.

Improving Outcomes for Disadvantaged Pupils: Lessons We Can All Learn

Improving outcomes for children from disadvantaged groups is one of the biggest priorities in the North West region. To address this, the partners on the Regional School Improvement Board were keen to understand the lessons learned from schools and trusts succeeding with these groups of pupils.

The Ofsted Regional Director and his team helped to identify a range of schools demonstrating outstanding practice in improving outcomes for these groups of children. This was checked out with the Regional Schools Commissioner for London and West Yorkshire and the relevant local authorities. The schools were then invited to share their practice at a session in Manchester in summer term 2018:

  • Schools provided their context in advance of the session, to ensure the focus of their presentation was on action and impact. The context summary for each school is provided in this report for background information
  • The presenters were asked to address three key questions, to provide a consistent framework to the input
  • The inputs were in the form of table top sharing of practice, rather than showcase power point presentations
  • NLEs acted as scribes to capture the headlines from the carousels of input and questions.

The feedback from the sharing exercise was extremely positive. Partners on the board were determined that the lessons learned should be shared more widely. A written report, based on the response to the three questions, was agreed. In addition, partners requested video footage to capture the heart of the messages from the outstanding leaders to be shared with schools in all 23 LA areas. This is in the final stage of editing.

If you would like access to the good practice document or video clips, please contact Zelda Massey at zeldam@nwemployers.org.uk


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North East Region Update December 2018

Social Work Conference

In October we held a regional children’s social work conference celebrating local social work practice. The event was attended by over 250 social workers and included sessions delivered by each local authority in the region, as well as some led by children and young people. 96% of attendees said they had taken away learning from the event that would inform their practice.

Children’s Emotional Health and Wellbeing

DCSs participated in a system leadership event on children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing. The session was facilitated by Jo Davidson from the Staff College and colleagues from Camden attended to share learning from their integrated approach and thrive model. A sub-group plans to take forward learning from the event.

Children’s Continuing Care

A review of children’s continuing care across the region has identified variation in relation to referrals, eligibility rates, approaches to funding and spend by different agencies. The findings will be explored further by the region’s Children’s Commissioning Group and some children’s continuing care training sessions have been held for staff.

Opportunity North East

The DfE has announced £24 million investment in the North East over three years which aims to improve outcomes for young people through secondary education and beyond. £12 million will fund the early roll out of the ‘Early Career Framework’ for teachers and the remaining £12 million will be invested in bringing DfE national programmes to the North East and innovation projects. There will be a particular focus on four local authority areas; Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, Hartlepool and Northumberland.

Sector-Led Improvement / RIA

Preparation for our Regional Improvement Alliance continues. Directors are meeting regularly with DfE regional colleagues and we are working towards a data sharing agreement. Self-assessments are underway and our ‘Directors’ Challenge’ sessions are scheduled to take place in December and January.

Three peer challenges have taken place in the region between September and November with two focussing on care leavers and the other on the front door.

We have re-established a lead member network and the first session in September considered the funding of children’s services. The next meeting, in December, will include a focus on workforce issues, which continue to be a priority in the region.


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Greater London Region Update December 2018

London’s Response to the Regional Improvement Alliance Approach

ALDCS recently held a regional summit with chief executives, lead members for children’s services, DCSs, ADs and other partners from across the region, to present and discuss its approach to the Regional Improvement Alliance. The region identified three priorities – vulnerable adolescents; workforce; and special educational needs & disabilities and is currently working on the programme for the next year of sector- led improvement activity.

Regionalising Adoption

Project managers are continuing to work at each of the sub-regional ‘spokes’ of London’s regional adoption agency, Adopt London. The current target for go-live of Adopt London is April 2019.

Funding Pressures in Children’s Social Care and High Needs

London DCSs, working with London Councils and chief executives, have commissioned further research to understand better the financial pressures facing children’s social care budgets and the High Needs Block. Our recent analysis revealed that London boroughs experienced a collective shortfall of £78 million in the High Needs Block, and £112 million in children’s social care in 2017/18. ALDCS and partners plan to commission qualitative research to investigate the key drivers of increased spend in these areas and identify current and emerging practice to reduce spend and manage demand.

School Places

ALDCS is working with London Councils on the next publication of ‘Do the Maths’, an annual places planning report, which will focus on the demand for secondary and dedicated SEND places in London.

MASH Review

The London Safeguarding Children Board carried out a review of MASH. The final report of the review went to the London Safeguarding Children Board on 13 September and was received positively. Agencies are now tasked to consider whether to endorse or amend the recommendations and report back to the London SCB on 10 December 2018, where an implementation plan will be agreed.

Children in Custody

A multi-agency working group, chaired by a DCS, is reviewing our approach to providing accommodation to children denied bail. The profile of this issue has increased in recent years – the factors behind the challenge of ensuring we are providing accommodation wherever appropriate are related to both the capacity of the system as well as to the clarity of regulations among the police and local government workforce. The group is also looking into whether bail is being granted in all cases where it is appropriate. The group shares data on police requests for accommodation with local authorities on a regular basis. A draft protocol for London has been written and is being consulted upon. ALDCS is also considering what steps can be taken to develop appropriate accommodation within the London area.

Appropriate Adult (AA) Provision

Directors of adults’ social services are currently considering a proposal to co-commission AA provision for vulnerable adults across the Basic Command Unit (BCU) footprint. Although this is not a statutory requirement for local authorities, it is relatively low cost and the MPS and NHSE will jointly fund the provision. Initial indications suggest that the majority of boroughs will agree and, where this is the case, arrangements will then be made to appoint a lead commissioner across the BCU who can liaise with the police and NHSE. The multi-agency working group, chaired by a DCS, which has developed these recommendations, will meet again to consider further the implications of the reduction in custody suites on children’s social care and whether processes can be put in place to support the provision of AAs to large events across the capital which are likely to generate a significant volume of arrests.

County Lines

ALDCS will be leading discussions at a county lines roundtable, being convened with partners from within and outside London, to take stock of our current approaches to preventing the exploitation of vulnerable young people by county lines crime organisations and to agree collaborative actions.

Pan-London Secure Settings Project

ALDCS is working with the NHS on a review of secure settings in London which includes an exploration of the use of secure settings by London’s young people and a consideration of future commissioning options.


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East Midlands Region Update December 2018

Sector-Led Improvement Activity

The East Midlands RIA plan is now becoming well-established as the vehicle to hold and describe the joint work priorities of the nine LAs in the region. The EM DCS group provides regular, strong leadership for the work, providing the executive steer, whilst the second-tier groups for social care/safeguarding and schools/learning provide the extra detail and mobilise the plans.

The activities within the current RIA plan are well-underway and on-track, and the new cycle of challenge and review for the next year has now started. The calendar for this cycle runs as follows:

  • Nov – Dec: All LAs complete their regional self-evaluation
  • Jan – Feb: Triad challenge conversations between senior LA teams
  • March: Updated draft plan developed in response to emerging issues, expressions of need and offers of help
  • Mid-March: Workshop session with DCSs and lead members to confirm priorities
  • April onwards: Implementation of new activity.

Some of the main recent activity within the RIA plan includes:

  • The process is enshrined within and underpinned by a Memorandum of Understanding signed by DCS, LM and CEO
  • The recently appointed RIA Project Manager (0.4fte) is strengthening the strategic elements of the process
  • The regional online data facilities continue to create a strong foundation for comparative analysis.

Self-Evaluation and Challenge Conversations

The regional template was updated this year and is currently being completed. It adopts a ‘chapter’ sectional approach that enables different colleagues, from different areas of service, to contribute and utilise pre-existing SEFs much more. These completed self-evaluations are shared between the three LAs in each triad challenge conversation over the Christmas period prior to the challenge conversations taking place in January.

Regional Case Audit Moderation

An inaugural seminar was held in October with Ofsted which looked at the characteristics of a good audit process. In preparation, the region had reviewed and evaluated each other’s audit tools/processes and provided cases for moderation. As a result, a regular on going programme of regional moderation will now be held.

School Inclusion Dashboard

A prototype for a regional inclusion dashboard has now been developed and populated with one LA’s school data. The DCS group has committed to the submission of live quarterly data into the tool, a process which should come into operation during 2019.

Think Tank with Ofsted in November on CLA Education Achievement

A seminar has been held with AD colleagues from education and social care, plus heads of service for LAC and virtual school heads, with Ofsted. This covered the analysis of data and underlying issues, it shared emerging good practice and committed to on going work to develop and share practice across the region.

Reducing Parental Conflict

The regional groups, ‘Troubled Families Leads’ and ‘Workforce Leads’, recently met with the DWP to find out more about this new investment and training resource. Subsequently the DCS group has agreed to support a collaborative approach that will enable the region to obtain better value from the funds.

Reducing Exploitation of Vulnerable Young People

The region’s CSE leads are currently peer reviewing each other’s toolkits for tackling CSE and other forms of exploitation. This work is underpinned by a set of regional standards. A conference is being held in December to bring colleagues and partners together to disseminate and reinforce the most effective practice.

Reflective Supervision and Outcomes-based (SMART) Care Planning

Seminars are being arranged for the spring that tackle these two priority themes in this year’s RIA plan.


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Eastern Region Update December 2018

Regional Self-Evaluation & DCS Peer Challenge

  • The new Regional Improvement Alliance/sector-led improvement framework continues to influence the focus of activity within the region
  • As part of the new process, the next regional DCS meeting in December will include updates from each DCS on the actions arising from their self-evaluations and peer challenge, Ofsted focused visits, feedback from any inspections since last April and the quarter two data from the tartan rug. It is anticipated that this review and challenge will be able to feed into each local authority’s preparation for their Ofsted annual conversation which, for some authorities, will be scheduled early in 2019.

Regional Priorities

The confirmed regional priorities emerging from the peer challenge process are:

  • Outcomes for children in need and early help
  • Children not in school and vulnerable learners
  • Serious youth violence
  • Reducing resources and increasing need
  • Sharing good practice.

DCS and AD leads have been identified for each regional priority. An improvement action plan has been prepared outlining a programme of work to address each topic area and this has been shared with the LGA Improvement Advisor and the DfE. The improvement activity links in to the work of the regional networking groups and several focused regional events are being planned.

Peer Review & Inspection

Peer reviews provide challenge and support in targeted, thematic areas of service. The full peer review methodology is being reviewed and updated to bring it into line with the ILACS framework and a peer review programme for 2019 is being planned. In addition:

  • Paired peer reviews are being conducted into QA & audit arrangements. A methodology has been prepared, pairings agreed, and local planning/scheduling has commenced
  • A peer review methodology for PLO & care proceedings is available for those LAs that request a peer review
  • A thematic CLA & achieving permanence peer review methodology has been prepared. A team has been assembled to conduct a single targeted peer review at the end of November
  • SEND peer reviews continue
  • A programme of education service peer reviews has been planned for this academic year.

Data Benchmarking

  • The quarterly tartan rug report continues to highlight comparative performance across all LAs in the region against a range of performance measures; data outcomes are increasingly being supported with contextual narrative comment
  • Additional data measures, for inclusion in the tartan rug, are being considered. Some of these relate to the group of 18 KPIs proposed by ADCS as a common dataset for regional KPI monitoring
  • A thematic deep-dive benchmark into CIN is currently being undertaken. This will be supplemented by narrative evidenced from QA activity undertaken in each LA.

Regional Networks

  • The regular regional network meetings facilitated for social care ADs, LSCB chairs and business managers, QA leads, performance information management group, principal social workers, corporate parenting steering group, leaving care network and education leads continue to be held
  • A SEND work programme is also in place and will be reviewed at the end of the financial year
  • A new regional group for leads of the early help service is being constituted with a plan to hold the first meeting before the end of the year
  • Governance of sector-led improvement activity within the region is undertaken by an SLI steering group, a children’s improvement board and the regional DCS group.


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Committe Update: EA and FCYP December 2018

The Educational Achievement and the Families, Communities & Young People Policy Committees met jointly on Friday 23 November in London to discuss shared areas of interest. The group was joined by a representative from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to discuss the development of secure schools, which will, in time, replace secure training centres. The MoJ has been working closely with colleagues in the Department for Education (DfE) over the last couple of years to develop the framework within which these new schools will operate – they will be dual registered as a children’s home and a 16 to 19 academy school. It is proposed that the free schools approvals process will also be used in assessing applicants. The window for applications is now open and expressions of interest have been received from a wide variety of providers. Secure schools were recommended by Charlie Taylor following his review of youth justice and discussions also touched on some of the other areas of reform outlined in his 2016 review, including youth offending teams and resettlement.

The group was then joined by reps from Ofsted’s unregistered schools’ team to discuss the recent test case where the proprietors of an unregistered school in London were successfully prosecuted under the Education and Skills Act (2006). Discussions touched on the importance of collaborative working between Ofsted, local authorities and the DfE as well as consistent messaging from these three partners when encountering an unregistered school in terms of pursuing a prosecution should collective efforts to encourage compliance with the law be unsuccessful. The links between attendance at an unregistered setting operating illegally and elective home education was noted as a weakness in legislation and Ofsted reps noted the legislative shortcomings in relation to their role too – they do not have any powers to close settings. The team began operating in January 2016 they have received nearly 500 referrals of suspected illegal schools. They flagged concern about a number of alternative providers operating within the requirements to require registration as a school and some cases of residential children’s homes who were offering on-site education without prior registration as a school.

Two representatives from the DfE shared an overview of several new work streams relating to the early years, including a forthcoming public health style campaign to improve speech, language and school readiness, a new early years peer review for local areas funded by the DfE but delivered by the LGA and a £6.5 million fund for local areas to bid into in order to boost early outcomes. Reps from the DfE noted that local areas have been doing some or all of these things locally for some time and stated that they see their role as a convener and an amplifier and to that end are seeking examples of local practice in this space.

The group also reviewed the results of Association’s third elective home education survey, which showed another annual increase in the numbers of children and young people known to be educated at home and members shared a brief overview of progress in their areas on developing new multiagency safeguarding arrangements (to replace LSCBs).


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NCASC 2018 Presentations

Presentations from the 2018 National Children and Adults Services Conference are available from the conference website at:

ncasc.info/presentations2018


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NCASC18 President’s Address

ADCS President’s address at the National Children and Adult Services Conference 2018

Speaking to delegates at the National Children and Adult Services Conference in Manchester Stuart Gallimore, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), today said:

On ADCS Safeguarding Pressures research

“Poverty can and does impact upon parenting capacity. What our research (and that of others) has found quite clearly is that poverty as a result of the cumulative impacts of 10 years of austerity, and welfare reform is a primary cause of increased demand for early help and children’s social care…The ‘trigger trio’ of parental mental ill-health, problematic substance use, and domestic abuse are also driving significant demand pressures. Together with child poverty, these represent the most prevalent risk factors in children’s lives. So it makes sense doesn’t it to address the cycle of adult disadvantage in order to help improve outcomes for children.”

On the Chancellor’s budget announcements

“The Chancellor announced £410 million for social care in 2019/20, with no further detail about how this will be shared or allocated between the desperate needs of adult social care and children’s social care services. It sets us up for 152 local bun-fights. Whilst any additional funding is to be welcomed, this is nowhere near enough to plug the funding gap expected in children’s services budgets next year alone, let alone longer term. For children’s social care specifically, the Chancellor announced that 20 local authorities with the highest numbers of looked after children, will share £84 million over five years…We are keen to understand how this will make a difference to the sector as a whole.”

He went on to say: “The one-off capital payment of £400 million announced in the Budget for equipment and buildings, is less than has been allocated for repairing roads. This will not solve the long-term issues we see in our schools. Failing to invest in children and their education is a false economy.”

On children’s services funding

“We are deeply concerned at the government’s piecemeal approach to funding children’s services. Small, ad hoc, short-term pots of funding from central government in response to single issues, made available for some but not all local areas, are particularly unhelpful and simply not good enough. They fall woefully short of the sustainable and equitable long-term investment strategy we need to ensure that children receive high quality, safe services at the earliest possible opportunity.”

He went on to say: “As part of ADCS Safeguarding Pressures research we asked directors how much money they needed to fill the hole in their budget and what percentage of their overall budget that represented…In essence, children’s services in England need around £840 million pound a year, each year to 2020 to stabilise the ship alone. This does not take into account inflation, price rises nor any further growth in demand or the child population. It would not allow for re-investment in the essential preventative services that local authorities have reluctantly had to begin cutting.”

On early help

“Early help is not a panacea for addressing disadvantage. It does not reduce the pressure on children’s social care in the short term. Nor does it generate short term cashable savings. Early help seeks to address complex and often deeply entrenched problems for children and families. Success depends on long-term investment, co-ordinated across all agencies with an interest. This task is impeded by a funding system biased towards short-term spending in response to immediate pressures.”

On care leavers

“Extending the cohort of care experienced young people who can ask for support from a personal advisor to the age of 25 is the right thing to do it’s what we do for our own children - we want to stay in touch with our care leavers and support them as they get older. As they experience the ups and downs of life, they will inevitably have needs for support that we as corporate parents have a moral duty to respond to…The funding local authorities received to help them meet the financial implications of the new responsibilities towards care leavers was inadequate. What added to our collective disappointment was the reality that these new responsibilities come on the back of a 50% reduction in local authority funding since 2010.”

ENDS



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President’s Address - NCASC 2018

Stuart Gallimore’s Presidential address at the 2018 National Children and Adult Services Conference

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Children’s Services Policy Context

ADCS members hold leadership roles in children’s services departments in local authorities in England. They specialise in developing, commissioning and leading the delivery of services to children, young people and their families, including education, health, youth, early years and social care services.

Managing the statutory demands placed upon DCSs and their senior teams in the face of diminishing resources is proving to be one of the biggest challenges in modern local government.

This resource has been developed for our members to provide an overview of the key current legislation, policy and inspections which drive or otherwise impact upon children’s services, as they deal with diminishing budgets and a range of reviews of the wider services they provide.


Children’s Services Statutory Duties

In 2011, a piece of work was undertaken by government which produced lists of statutory duties as they apply to councils in England. Of those duties, around 200 were in respect of children’s services. More than seven years on, ADCS has undertaken an exercise to update the list of duties - we believe there are now almost 300 statutory duties in relation to children’s services.

Find out more

Children’s Services Timeline 2007 onwards

ADCS has developed a timeline which illustrates the key events and changes that impact on safeguarding children and young people in England.

Find out more

The Roles and Responsibilites of Directors of Children’s Services and Lead Members for Children’s Services

This guidance covers the legislative basis for the 2 appointments; roles and responsibilities of the post holders; and government expectations about the role of local authorities in education and children & young people’s services.

Find out more

ADCS Safeguarding Pressures Research

ADCS longitudinal research into the pressures facing local authority children’s services departments.

Find out more

Inspection

ADCS has developed a resource which brings together a range of supporting information regarding ILACS inspection, including links to the framework and guidance; an overview of published outcomes and a range of supporting materials.

Find out more


This resource will continue to be developed. If you have any comments or suggestions to assist the development please contact info@adcs.org.uk


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Statistics on serious incident notifications by local authorities

Commenting on statistics showing numbers of serious incident notifications by local authorities Jenny Coles, Chair of the ADCS Families, Communities and Young People Policy Committee, said:

“Few conclusions can be drawn from this data, specifically the reasons why there has been a worrying rise in the number of suicides among children and young people. That said, we know that poor mental health and well being can have a devastating, lifelong impact on children and for so long an increasing number of children and young people have not received the mental health support they need until they have reached crisis point. Sustainable, long-term funding across the totality of children’s services is required to ensure children receive the right support, in the right place and at the earliest opportunity to prevent problems from becoming entrenched and reaching crisis point. Without this we will never be a country that works for all children.”

ENDS


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OCC report on vulnerable babies in England

Commenting on a report by the OCC into vulnerable babies in England Charlotte Ramsden, Chair of the ADCS Health, Care and Additional Needs Policy Committee, said:

“For local authorities protecting children and young people from harm is most important work and we work with a range of partners to do this including schools, health, the police and the voluntary sector. We know that children are best brought up within their families, this is a core principle of the Children Act 1989; local authorities are working hard to support families in times of crisis to better manage the challenges they face but the government’s current approach to funding is not conducive to this goal. Children’s services are facing increasing pressures as the report states; austerity continues and the cuts local authorities are having to make are becoming increasingly tough and counterintuitive as we are forced to scale back services that help tackle the root causes of the problems families face not just the symptoms. We urge the government to seriously rethink its current approach to funding children’s services, ad-hoc, time limited grant funding that only benefits a handful of local areas does not offer a sustainable, equitable solution. We hope the government is not silent on the issue in the forthcoming Autumn Budget.”

ENDS


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Children’s Services Statutory Duties

Children’s Services Statutory Duties

In 2011, a piece of work was undertaken by government which produced lists of statutory duties as they apply to councils in England. Of those duties, around 200 were in respect of children’s services.

More than seven years on, ADCS has undertaken an exercise to update the list of duties - we believe there are now almost 300 statutory duties in relation to children’s services.

The list we have compiled is not necessarily exhaustive - we would be grateful for any feedback from colleagues on the duties listed to assist us:

  • Remove any duties no longer in statute
  • Remove any duties which have been over-ridden by more recent legislation
  • Add any duties which we have not yet identified.

Please contact Pam Davies at pam.davies@adcs.org.uk with your comments.

We hope that this list will be a valuable resource to our members as they deal with diminishing budgets and a range of reviews of the wider services they provide.

View list (.xlsx)


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Family court statistics

Jenny Coles, Chair of the ADCS Families, Communities and Young People Policy Committee, said:

“Local authorities and the courts have made some good progress in improving the timeliness of care proceedings down from an average of 50 weeks in 2011 to 26 weeks in 2016. One of the ways local authorities have done this is by revising our approaches to pre-proceedings but there are several reasons why average times are now lengthening. The volume of cases we are dealing with is increasing as is the complexity. Delays can also be due to differences in courts or assessments for family members identified part way through proceedings. The Public Law Outline has delivered some benefits in terms of reducing unnecessary drift and delay for children and families, however, we are clear that this can never be at the detriment of children. Social workers must be given the time and space to conduct comprehensive and robust assessments to ensure we are meeting the individual needs of the child even if this falls outside of the 26 week time limit.”

ENDS


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Civil Society Strategy

Commenting on the government’s Civil Society Strategy Rachel Dickinson, ADCS Vice President, said:

“The Civil Society Strategy clearly recognises the impact of youth services and youth workers who contribute to a range of positive outcomes at a community and individual level, this is welcome, as is the commitment to involve young people more in the development, implementation and evaluation of new policies that will directly affect their lives. DCMS are leading the way with this and we believe other government departments should follow.

“A review of statutory guidance setting out our duties in relation to youth services seems sensible. The Strategy rightly states that much has changed since this guidance was last updated, in 2012. Youth services have been disproportionately impacted by a 49% reduction in local government funding since 2010, and local authorities have been exploring different ways of arranging, commissioning and delivering these services in a bid to retain some provision. Services are typically more targeted and embedded as part of the early help offer.

“The Strategy does not address the key drivers of social inequalities in this country including rising levels of child poverty, expected to reach a staggering 5.2 million by 2022, but it is a welcome step in the right direction.”

ENDS


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Local authority statutory duties in relation to children

Alison Michalska, ADCS Immediate Past President, said:

“Local authorities have around 200 statutory duties in relation to children including around child protection, children in need, special educational needs and disabilities, home to school transport, care leavers – the list goes on. That we are starting to see a trend in local authorities stepping away from providing discretionary services should serve as a warning to the Treasury. Our funding has reduced in real-terms by 49% since 2010 whilst demand and the number of duties most definitely have not. We have worked hard to make savings but children’s services are now facing a funding gap of £2 billion by 2020. As a result, all councils are being forced to make counterintuitive decisions like cutting the very services we know help children and families earlier and prevent the escalation of need to crisis point. This is neither sensible nor an effective use of public money. We hope government hear and, crucially, act by plugging the funding gap in children’s services to prevent us from becoming a wholly ‘blue light service’.”

ENDS


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Out of area placements being made in the south east

Commenting on out of area placements, Rachel Dickinson, Vice President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said:

“Ensuring we find stable placements that meet the needs of the children in our care is a big priority for our members but as Sir Martin Narey recognised in his review of residential care, the issue of out of area placements is not as straight forward as often suggested. Whilst it is desirable for children to remain close to their friends and wider family, there are times when it is necessary for placements to be made further afield because of the availability of specialist homes, for example, or for safety reasons. A whole host of factors are considered as part of this process, including the child’s needs, the support they require, availability, geography and cost. There are more children in care than ever, up 40% over the last decade, yet there is a national shortage of foster carers and a growing disconnect between the location of residential children’s homes and demand. Homes are increasingly opening in areas where housing is cheaper, in parts of the south east, the midlands and north west, which is contributing to this complex picture.

“Identifying vulnerable young people at risk of harm, disrupting sexual or criminal exploitation activities and pursing prosecutions requires the full commitment and support of all statutory partners including local authorities, the police, health services, schools and the wider community, particularly where a child is new to the area. Sadly, these issues are not limited to a particular geography, they are national problems and should be recognised as such. We need to work to together with all safeguarding partners to find different ways of preventing harm from occurring. The government has a role to play too in addressing the weaknesses in our systems, particularly around notifications and information sharing, and in helping us to address the social, cultural and moral issues that allow unscrupulous adults to take advantage of children and their vulnerabilities.”

ENDS


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