Our Children's Services
Our Children’s Services work to protect children and young people in Gloucestershire. We aim to work with families to make sure children are in a safe environment which allows them to thrive and reach their full potential. Our team structures are displayed here.
Early help is about children, young people and families getting the right help at the right time, before issues get worse. All children receive Universal Services however some children will need extra support in order to be healthy, safe and to achieve their potential. In Gloucestershire, we believe that families are best supported by those who are already working with them, with additional support from local partners arranged as needed. Children and families are entitled to early help if and when they need it. It may also be provided through an increase in the levels of universal services, or services provided or commissioned in localities.
We want our practice to be led by better understanding of the needs and experiences of children, young people l and their families. The academy will be working closely with our Participation Team and the young people who work with us as Ambassadors to make sure all our learning and development opportunities are focused on what‘s important for children – including direct work, assessment and relationship building.
The employment of Ambassadors has proved really successful and was noted as strength by Ofsted. Ambassadors help us to keep young people and children focused; they challenge us, work with us and often identify areas of our work that can be neglected. They are creative, social media savvy and help us communicate effectively with children and young people. They have impacted on our attitudes, understanding and awareness of the issues that are important to them.
Chris Spencer, Director of Children's Services
I’ve been here since March 2018, having previously been director of Children’s Services at Harrow and Hillingdon councils in London for over 12 years as well as holding a number of interim roles supporting local authorities. Before that I worked as a teacher and an educational psychologist before switching to social work.
The job with Gloucestershire County Council was one that really appealed to me, as I have lived in Cheltenham since 1977 and I have deep roots in the area. I was also attracted to the challenge that this role presented – a large authority, in intervention and working to improve. At this stage in my career I felt it was an exciting opportunity and a big challenge, but one I’ve embraced and look forward to over the coming months.
We are making improvements working closely with the Department for Education and our partners at Essex County Council, and the most recent monitoring report from Ofsted was more positive. However, we know there is still a long way to go in order to reach our aims of being a centre of excellence for children’s services.
To help us do that, we’re looking for motivated, ambitious and skilled social workers to join us on our improvement journey.
Julie Rzezniczek, Director of Children’s Safeguarding & Care
I have been a qualified social worker since 1987. I started my social work career in the Stroud area office in Gloucestershire. I then went on to work for 17 years in one local authority in South Wales where I worked my way up through the management ranks to Assistant Director level, responsible for all elements of children’s social care. In 2012, I decided to undertake some improvement work with a number of local authorities on an independent basis. I have since worked with four local authorities for considerable periods, focusing on improving their children’s social care services with considerable successes. In November 2017, I joined Gloucestershire
Children’s Services on an interim basis as Assistant Director and was then appointed on a permanent basis in July 2018 as Director of Safeguarding and Care.
Safeguarding children has been a key thread of my focus throughout my career and alongside the team around me, I am confident that we are taking Gloucestershire Children’s Social Care on a robust improvement journey and this is evident in all our ongoing performance and quality analysis.
I have undertaken a significant number of projects with schools historically, including projects relating to the sharing of electronic information, a project on young people self-harming, the development of services for disabled children and young people, co-location of some teams and leading a speech and language review.
I am committed to working closely with partners and colleagues to develop excellent working relationships which impact positively on our services to children and families.
Andy Dempsey, Director of Partnerships & Strategy
I have worked at director level since 2004, mainly in the North West, having responsibility for wide range services, including neighbourhood development, community safety, drug and alcohol treatment, youth services, and youth offending services. In 2011, I took on the role of Director of Children’s Services in St Helens in Merseyside and led them through two inspections.
My journey to Gloucestershire came via the South West Association of Directors of Children’s Services, and meeting the new Director of Children’s Services for Gloucestershire, Chris Spencer. Chris is committed to an expansive vision for children’s services and building something that has lasting impact beyond how we may be judged by Ofsted. Much of my work over the past 15 years has been in building and sustaining partnerships and strategic relationships, and I bring that experience to Gloucestershire Children’s Services to realise Chris’ vision.
Tim Browne, Director of Education
Previously employed in private sector finance, I have over 25 years’ experience working in local government and the charity sector with children, young people and their families. During this time I have held a number of senior leadership positions in Gloucestershire and I am passionate and committed to improving outcomes for children and young people.
I have experience across all areas of children’s services and have successfully established and headed up a number of Pupil Referral Services - leading the schools through to good and outstanding Ofsted judgements. I have overseen Children’s Social Care, as well as a wide range of commissioning and support services across education. I have trained as an Ofsted inspector, and successfully led Gloucestershire through its SEND inspection.
I am is currently the Director of Education and a member of the Children’s Services Senior Leadership Team. I am responsible for delivering the commissioning strategy and have operational management responsibility for the council’s education and disability services.
Eugene O'Kane, Assistant Director of Early Help and Targeted Support
I qualified as a social worker from Cardiff University in 1990 and, following spells in Plymouth and Bristol, practiced as a children’s social worker in Gloucestershire between 1993 and 1997 when I was appointed team manager in the newly created Youth Offending Service.
In 2002, I became a senior manager in the Connexions Service and in 2007 re-joined the county council as Head of Youth Support with responsibility for local authority young people’s services including the Youth Offending Service, Young People’s Substance Misuse, Youth Housing, and Leaving Care services.
In 2008 I was appointed senior programme manager with responsibility for leading the development and implementation of transformation programmes across the council, including system redesign, remodelling of services, behaviour change and delivery of savings. In 2015, following an Ofsted thematic inspection, I led the transformation of early help services which created the current Families First service. The Ofsted inspection of Children’s Services in 2017 subsequently identified early help as a strength. I am currently an Assistant Director for Early Help and Targeted Support as part of the new Strategic Leadership Team for Children’s Services.