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Culture change in Children’s Services

Our March 2017 Ofsted inspection showed us that:

  • We need to reduce caseloads
  • Managers should manage people, not hold caseloads
  • We need appropriate manager to social worker ratios
  • We need to ensure regular supervision happens and improve standards of supervision
  • We need to stabilise the workforce
  • We need an environment of high challenge / high support.

The council accepted Ofsted’s findings, which included concerns about several aspects of the organisational culture, and instigated work to get more evidence about what is happening and what needs to be changed. Feedback from Ofsted, ‘vision and values’ workshops with staff, and confidential workshops held by ‘Research in Practice’, has shown us that workforce change begins with culture change. The focus is therefore on delivering high quality practice through the development of six specific areas of improvement:

complex diagram showing of six specific areas of improvement

We are well on the way to developing our Gloucestershire ‘offer’ to social care and related professions in terms of recruitment and retention. We know that reasonable workload, training and development, good career progression, good supervision, flexible and mobile working, and good leadership and management all make for an attractive employment package. We are also reshaping children’s social care to build a child focused, fit for purpose operating model, with a focus on reducing caseloads, having smaller teams and providing staff with clear career progression and opportunities.

In order to create a better climate to introduce these changes and to address culture we are continuing with our programme of Restorative Practice training. Restorative Practice is about giving high levels of support and challenge to inspire people and communities to feel able to resolve their problems and shape their own futures. This training is giving greater clarity to the idea that ‘support and challenge’ need to be used in equal measure to improve the service.

We have taken a one-council approach to improving children’s services, bringing together a core team of support services to resource and manage improvements. This has been successful and has led to a co-ordinated approach to improving back office services. It includes ICT (new laptops and smartphones, better Wi-Fi); Property (new and refurbished office space); HR (reshaping structures, recruitment of staff); and Performance (surgeries, improved reporting and data).

We know there is much more to do but we were encouraged by the feedback from our most recent Ofsted monitoring visit which identified some positive signs that our ‘culture’ is changing.

We are now determined to grow and embed an honest, open and transparent culture across the council where our staff feel supported, valued, listened to and can flourish. We have engaged a leading national charity “Public Concern at Work” as our partner on this issue and have reviewed the corporate whistleblowing policy and procedure, so that staff and partners can raise concerns without fear of victimisation, discrimination and disadvantage. We have launched our “Speak up if it’s not right” campaign, to encourage staff to report concerns or fears about inappropriate behaviour. We have also launched our new values and behaviours to highlight the behaviours we expect to build a successful organisation.

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