the mists of uncertainty the mountains of change the question of investment the seas of decisions familiar?
always present in a social context characterised by the existence of a wide range of diverse stakeholders - all claim to have the final ‘solution’ the problem is not understood until there is a solution – but the problem itself is hard to define because of the many interlocking issues and constraints there is a no ‘stopping’ rule since the issue is ever changing every attempt to solve has consequences. You cannot try it out realistically to see how it works. Every solution has lasting unintended consequences which establish new wicked problems there is not a right or wrong – just good enough or not good enough what is a wicked issue?
requires sustained leadership and thought to solve. Groups of people who care enough about the problem have to work together to try new solutions
Wicked issue 1: why do inspections and serious case reviews keep raising the same issues but the performance profile does not result in change for the better?
the strongest local authorities early help - beyond the wiring to an integrated professional ‘offer’ – this is known and understood locally – it makes a difference domestic abuse - taken seriously and effective help is provided assessments - about the needs of and risks to children. They inform clear decisions and plans supported by chronologies social workers – have trusting relationships with families and children and work directly with them. There is usually a theoretical base to the work capacity of parents – is well considered and they are given help to parent and protect their children protection – when it is needed. Best interests of children in view being ‘looked after ‘– legal decisions are good – supported in court. Children do well at school, good mental health support and risks from sexual exploitation minimised
permanent homes – are found quickly. There are enough families and children can live with brothers and sisters adoption – experienced staff, few delays – 3 months approval to matching in one place leaving care – is well planned, accommodation is good leaders (politicians too) – understand the strengths and weakness and have an action plan. They learn from practice management oversight of practice – a priority. Managers know the cases well. Principle social workers influence effectively performance – understood – numbers and practice resources – prioritised, shared and targeted children – their voice is important. There is evidence of their engagement working environment – is prioritised, vacancies managed, workload monitored, the quality of training and supervision is very important the strongest (2)...........
is it enough then to ‘bottle’ what is done well and find a mechanism to deliver it everywhere? is that what improvement programmes do?
Wicked issue 2: many of us agreed with Professor Eileen Munro’s conclusion that the system had become very proficient at meeting targets and in so doing focused less on the experiences of children and their families?
10 and 35 days for assessment – target was to complete in time – the experiences and impact on families was secondary visits to children on plans – the visits took place – what was happening to the children was unreported in many places social work supervision monthly – the quality of both it and the decisions about next steps for children counting the number of plans and maybe even how long they lasted? What difference the plans made was less obvious as a measure of success? had we noticed that social work had become a bureaucratic end in itself and that there was very little direct work with families we all recognised the evidence that social workers spent 80% of their time at a desk filling in forms – didn’t we? examples…….
how did this happen and what will prevent the same thing from happening again? remember the times however when we didn’t count anything? What is the balance and what is the role of inspection? does an inspection framework focused on what happens to children and their families make a difference?
Wicked issue 3: what is the right sort of inspection framework then? If helping, protecting and caring for children and their families is a shared responsibility, then should inspections be joint, aligned or separate?
we planned in 2013 for a joint inspection with a shared single judgement on the overall effectiveness of help, protection and care for children in a local area supported in the consultation but not in the run up to implementation; one judgement thought likely to blur accountabilities we are now planning separate but aligned inspections from April 2015 separate reports by each inspectorate. The judgement about the LSCB is shared in accordance with Children Act 2004 consultation responses supportive but with notable exceptions – ADCS view that the integrity of single inspections will be compromised joint or aligned?
Wicked issue 4: so to the question of who is really accountable for helping, protecting and caring for children, young people, their families and carers? everyone, a statutory partner, the local authority?
local authorities have functions conferred upon them in the 1970 social services Act – then re-established in Children Act 1989 they include: -care and supervision of children -protection -support for children and their families -section 10 of the Children Act 2004 establishes that the local authority must lead on making arrangements for statutory partners to co-operate to improve the well – being of children in the area – including protection from harm and neglect accountability ?
section 11 of same Act – statutory partners to discharge their functions having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and adhere to guidance – Working Together 2013 the Local Safeguarding Children Board - a duty to co-ordinate what is done and to ensure what is done to protect children is effective accountability continued
are we clear then? Who has authority to act, in what regard and when? Who ultimately has the lead? Is it specified anywhere? is it a national issue for us all – we think that it requires clarification.
reviews of local safeguarding children boards Those that are ‘good’ clarity of responsibility - chair, DCS and Chief Executive wired into local decision makers – health and well being board and CCGs priorities agreed for all partner agencies including the local authority resources (including people) are shared among partners for the work of the boards develop initiatives that improve services for families quality of professional practice is prioritised in all training section 11 audits are mature and continually developed for new practice challenges – sexual exploitation learning from practice is clear – case audits result in clear change and improvement and SCR learning is regularly shared with staff and evident in improved practice chairs hold partners to account at the highest level for poor practice
Wicked issue 5: to judge or not to judge? What would you do?
children, young people and families have made it clear to Ofsted. that a single word judgement provides them with the assurance they need about the help and support they receive are there other services/reviews where an inadequate grade or judgement, would make you think twice about using it – providing of course you had the choice? we asked for a long time to set out what ‘good’ looks like in settings we inspect – if this is important, surely we have to judge when it is in place? if ‘good’ is accepted as the minimum standard, why is a judgement of ‘requires improvement’ [to be good] more difficult than its predecessor of ‘adequate’? we believe that ‘adequacy’ is unambitious and sets out a false positive…….? the room will be split……
Are children’s lives improved by an ambition to reach the requirements of ‘good’ services and settings? Should we commission from services that are not yet good? What assurances would you and do you seek, from providers you commission and who ‘require improvement’?
Wicked issue 6: why and how do the voices and experiences of children, young people, families and carers get lost in the system?
Wicked issue 7: is the system adaptable and resilient enough to innovate? We need some new answers – inspection is only one part
in the interim and now - something else is needed answers are more likely to be found if the many skilled leaders, practitioners, policymakers, regulators and commentators come together with positive intent to discuss and to achieve consensus, on how to effect real change for vulnerable children, young people and families Thank you!
the issue for debate as I see it, is not who to blame or whether Ofsted is hindering progress through the award of a judgment, inadequate or otherwise. It is about what it will take to provide every child and family with a service of the standard that we would expect for ourselves Thank you!