Partnership: a renewed common purpose!
Friday, August 14, 2020
ADCS recently published a discussion paper Building a country that works for all children post Covid-19 which highlights both the challenges and opportunities the pandemic has created for children, families and the services they rely on.
The paper draws on the experiences of senior leaders in children’s services from across the country, and it was clear that there were a number of positives emerging from lockdown that should be retained as we move forward. Enhanced and more productive partnership working was often fed back as one of the positives by ADCS members and this is what I shall be focusing my blog on.
As the discussion paper articulates “a renewed common purpose has galvanized partnership working in many areas, even within local authorities working relationships have been strengthened, particularly with public health colleagues”. Partnerships are fundamental to our approach, our work and the environment we seek to build, and we know it improves outcomes for children and families. This has been at the core of our activity for years, forever even! Most of us would say that we had a good basis or model of practice to build on when Covid-19 impacted on all of us, so what has been different since March?
In times of crisis and such extraordinary challenges, increased commitment to partnership, a better understanding of each other and what working together achieves and is achieving can never have been so important. So, here are some reflections on what’s moved on in a few months which may have taken a lot longer previously:
- Bureaucracy has been streamlined or bypassed! Managers as part of Safeguarding Partnerships have met regularly, shared intelligence and information, used social media and formed relationships with local businesses, supermarkets etc to publicise messages about protecting children, domestic abuse and where to seek help. They have also been able to redirect activities of their workforce in a short space of time to cover gaps and ensure that vital services continue.
- Partnerships with schools and education settings, whatever their governance, have improved and I’ll say it again, has confirmed that authorities are the leaders of place in education. Added to this, there has been a much greater appreciation of our role from national government, not just in education but in our local communities as well (I could write a whole other blog on this topic, but maybe another time!)
- Sharing of information. For some, this emergency has given them permission to share more easily and, given we are going to be living in a situation where sharing information at a person, local and national level will be so important for some considerable time, this should be the justification to break down the information sharing barriers we’ve struggled with for so many years.
- But there are also some challenges. Although we have seen firsthand the positive impact of partnership working at a family and child level, or the benefits of technology on virtual working and contact, evidence of their effectiveness will only emerge over the coming months. Successful partnerships require building trust and understanding and, as we have seen for some communities, the last few months have shown yet again the importance of positive action rather than relying on promises to achieve lasting change.
Finally, and on a more personal note, the partnerships we have developed through ADCS and our regional networks have been part of all our coping mechanisms. The support and advice I have received from colleagues has been invaluable and I hope others have benefited as much as I have - thank you!
Jenny Coles is DCS at Hertfordshire Council and president of the ADCS. This blog first appeared on the ADCS website