In the South West region we can often be challenged by our geography, which can leave us feeling as though we are just not doing enough. However, in May 2016 there was unanimous agreement among directors of children's services in the region that we shared common priorities and that what we wanted was to unite around an outcome and to make a difference in the lives of children and young people across the region. For the first time, we also secured funding across all of the 16 local authorities in the region to fund a Sector-Led Improvement (SLI) co-ordinator to give us the capacity to progress many of our great ideas. So, after some discussion and regional collaboration, we agreed to focus on preventing and tackling neglect in the region.
Now, a year on from the initial discussion, it is good to reflect on how we have moved from ‘talk to action' across the region. Critical to moving forward we agreed on a regional business plan with clear actions, which was shared at our annual regional summit. It was good to see how all of our groups that form a substantial professional network in the region became really energised with a common goal pulling them all together.
Here is just some of the progress that has been made to date:
- The thematic peer challenge programme is focused on the regional priority - the framework is agreed and challenge partners and timescales are in place
- The principal social worker group has developed a regional practice guide detailing assessment and intervention approaches and sharing toolkits building on the best available practice in the region and beyond
- There has been sub-regional collaboration and local authority public awareness campaigns to raise awareness of neglect and to improve reporting for early interventions
- The performance group is developing a scorecard to focus on agreed outcomes, which will lead to the identification of indicator trends and action planning so we can describe what a difference we have made
- Evaluation has been shared regionally
And more activity is planned throughout the coming year.
We were able to share more about our region's priorities and plans for SLI at the annual ADCS policy seminar earlier this year. This gave us an opportunity to take stock and to hear about the work of other regions in England. Colleagues from across the country reflected on our collective ambitions for SLI to move towards a ‘self-improving system for children's services'.
This feels like a really exciting point in time. Not only is our region pulling together behind a shared priority but it feels like all the regions want to pull together too, in the interests of all of our children wherever they may live. In the South West we are now undertaking a stocktake exercise to assess how much ambition we have to be truly proactive in identifying and supporting each other's areas of performance.
So I reckon we don't need to be too hard on ourselves and, occasionally, we need to pat ourselves on the back, because in quite a short time we have come a long way. I look forward to the next generation of SLI and playing our part in improving outcomes for children and young people.
Sara Tough is director for children, adults and communities, Dorset Council. This blog first appeared on the ADCS website