I am sure that for many of you the highlight of any week is getting out of the office and spending time in a school, on a social work visit or a visit to a children's centre or residential unit, in short anything involving an actual child or young person. It certainly is for me. Not so long ago on a school visit, I asked a young person: "Why should I send my child to this school?". Her answer was very clear it was a great school because the teachers helped you achieve more than you thought possible. There were echoes of an answer I had previously given a social worker who had asked me while on a visit: "What do you actually do?" (not an uncommon question in these parts). My response went along the lines of creating an environment where you can shine and be the best social worker possible. Great teachers, like great social workers, have the potential to transform lives and with them, communities, but the environment within which they work must enable them to do so.
How we create the conditions of success was at the heart of our discussion at the recent ADCS policy session in Oxford. A day was dedicated to thinking about sector-led improvement, what the improvement offer looks like in different regions and what role regions play to ensure we maximise success and limit failure. Each authority which is judged inadequate under the single inspection framework prompts a series of questions for their region - what did we know and what did we do to help prevent this from happening? In my own authority, East Sussex, we often talk about our work in children's services as a collective endeavour.
This is increasingly true nationally as we see colleagues from one authority providing help to another, sometimes at considerable distances. And we do this because we care about children and young people wherever they may live and not just those on our patches. The debate in Oxford confirmed this - and my belief that the skills for success lie in every authority - we just need to find a better way of unleashing them and in a way that doesn't rely on the few but the many. This is where everyone can play their part, sharing best practice, getting involved in a peer review or signing up for one of our ADCS policy committees. Irrespective of your inspection outcome we all have something to share with others and equally, we all have something to learn. It is time we all stepped up to the plate to ensure that every children's worker in every authority can be the best they can be and in turn unlock the full potential in every child, their family and the community they live in.
Stuart Gallimore is DCS at East Sussex County Council. This blog first appeared on the ADCS website