West Midlands Region Update - September 2017

As reported in our last update, the West Midlands strategic approach has resulted in the recalibration of the infrastructure and communications around our strategic priorities as part of our ambitious plans for improvement. This work has been boosted since the last update:

FutureSocial

The region has been awarded up to £1.5m from the Innovation Fund to innovate in children’s social worker planning, recruitment, retention, development and career progression. All 14 WM authorities are signed up to this as a committed, caring and courageous workforce is central to our ambitious outcomes for children in the region by 2021. Our analysis to date has shown us how interlinked the workforce is through the region. We are well on with Phase 1 and a business case for this is in the process of being signed off following a recent meeting with the department.

In June, we co-hosted the national ‘What’s the Protocol’ conference with the LGA. This highlighted the number of similar issues that LAs are all grappling with, particularly in retention. Our plan is that FutureSocial will aid national learning.

Regional Improvement Alliance Pilot

We are also pleased to be one of the three pilots for the regional improvement alliance work. This enables us to test out several aspects of system level improvement. It will include the new opportunities and challenges introduced by around 20% of the councils in our region moving into or thinking about trusts/alternative delivery models. For our pilot, we are working closely with the LGA to ensure that the improvement work happens within the broader political and corporate context; our learning is clear and that children’s services thrive in strong and effective organisations.

Prevention and Resilient Communities

The West Midlands ADCS is working closely with the combined authority, KPMG and partners to consider new options and models for improving the outcomes and wellbeing of children and families throughout the West Midlands. Although in its early development this will provide a real catalyst for change, learning and development with a strategic focus on prevention and resilient communities.

Performance Profile

Having been in a bleak position this time last year, with a number of councils in intervention, we are pleased with the gradually improving profile. Coventry has moved into ‘Requires Improvement’, Birmingham and Dudley continue to improve, Wolverhampton has been judged ‘Good’ and Staffordshire has had a positive pilot inspection. We have also seen improvements in authorities who have commissioned and received support from a variety of peer sources.

We are currently analysing this year’s education outcomes to assess the impact we are beginning to have on our previous poor comparative outcomes. We have taken a strategic approach to the Strategic School Improvement Fund bids and will be working with the Regional Schools Commissioner as a region as well as through the RSC sub-regions.

Challenges

Like many other regions, we are concerned by the current and medium-term funding outlook. There is significant pressure on schools’ budgets, home to school transport, particularly for children with disabilities and some big challenges in addressing special educational needs. Over the coming months we will be exploring which collaborative work could make a positive difference.


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