We have a strong history of collaboration in Yorkshire and Humber and I've plenty of cause to reflect on this; at the time of writing this blog, I'm preparing for this week's regional meeting where DCSs (or their representatives) from the 15 local authorities in Yorkshire and Humber come together, along with a representative of Doncaster Children's Services Trust, to support and challenge one another in our collective endeavour to deliver better outcomes for children and young people in the region.
The agenda has just three key topics for discussion; leadership development; sector-led improvement; and Children's Social Work Matters.
For the discussion on leadership development we will be joined by Jo Davidson, Principal of the Staff College. We share a concern, indeed a deep anxiety, about succession planning and strongly support the call for a national development offer. A dwindling number of us in Yorkshire and Humber benefited from the DCS leadership development programme that Jo referred to in her recent blog. As systems leaders operating in turbulent times, we have a continuous need for experience, skills and knowledge development.
In Yorkshire and Humber we have a strong leadership development offer for middle leaders, one which draws on capacity within the region and is strengthened by years of collaboration with the Staff College. We are really keen to feed into the future development of the Staff College, Jo is equally keen to hear our views. I've no doubt that within the discussion we will see many of the leadership behaviours that Jo discussed in her blog: nurture; challenge; support; collaboration; and drive, not forgetting cheering from the sidelines.
We will move on to spend a significant amount of time on sector-led improvement (SLI) as a Regional Improvement Alliance. Like many regions, our SLI work is supported by a Memorandum of Understanding and funded through individual authority annual contributions. The Memorandum has been progressively strengthened since it was first signed off in 2013 to reflect our learning and growing confidence in the value of collaborative SLI. We are currently on our fifth iteration.
The SLI Executive, chaired by Jon Stonehouse from York, will meet the previous evening and we will receive an activity report by exception. We will be asked to consider a range of proposals around securing greater accountability and a further tightening of our processes and systems for SLI. As an important part of the discussion, the meeting will check our progress on providing coherent regional support for individual local authorities where the need is greatest.
To date, 35 peer challenges have been completed in Yorkshire and Humber through our SLI arrangements and we will hear about the headlines from the latest two. Our peer challenge methodology is becoming increasingly bespoke and I will be sharing Barnsley's experience of the peer challenge of our ‘front door' undertaken by a regional Partner in Practice, East Riding, in June. One of the most important elements of the feedback I'll be giving is the positive experience of Barnsley's front line practitioners and team mangers. Finally, we'll be thinking ahead to our next regional meeting when we will be joined by our DfE Regional Advisor for SLI and consider how to collaborate across regions following my recent trip to the North East where I heard about some of the great work taking place there.
The last key topic for discussion will be Children's Social Work Matters (CSWM). We are very proud of CSWM in Yorkshire and Humber which has contributed significantly to the region having one of the lowest staff turnover rates in the country. Founded in 2011, this project established a website to raise the profile of children's social work and encourage people to come to the region to study and to work. We advertise all our CPD opportunities and jobs through CSWM, it's the go-to place for the latest news, webinars and CPD recording. For the first time CSWM will sponsor a national Social Work Award in 2019. The work group driving CSWM forward has submitted a paper proposing an updating of the regional commitment to social work. I've no doubt that the discussion will be both lively and collaborative.
Our final piece of business will be to say happy retirement and goodbye to our much respected colleague Stuart Smith OBE, director of adults and children's services in Calderdale. Stuart is one of the first generation DCSs; he came into post when the job was born in 2005/06 and we will miss his experience, wise counsel, skillful challenge and very special brand of humour. After over 12 years in the most privileged but demanding of roles, we think he's earned a break - good luck Stuart!
Rachel Dickinson is executive director of people, Barnsley Council. This blog first appeared on the ADCS website