Detail of our Priorities 2015-2016

The priorities for 2015/16 build on the improvement model developed in 2013/14 that focused activity on two broad areas ‘knowing ourselves and being challenged’ and ‘improving ourselves’, alongside specific policy priorities going forward.

P1. Effective Safeguarding

Improvement priorities for safeguarding focus on both strategic governance and partnership working, and the improvement of front line practice to improve outcomes for children and young people. These have been identified as the following areas:

  • Understanding how to manage demand through an understanding of thresholds and approaches to the front door.
  • Improving the quality of assessments
  • Running a programme of learning seminars to tackle difficult practice issues
  • Raising morale of Social Workers

P2. Child Sexual Exploitation

  • Developing a regional approach to CSE, which shares understanding, practice and challenges across the whole of the West Midlands
  • Supporting a regional CSE Coordinators network.

P3. Better outcomes for looked after children, care leavers and adoption

Improvement priorities for looked after children include:

  • Sharing practice on hearing the Voice of the Child following March 2015 event
  • Sharing practice to improve support services and outcomes for Care Leavers
  • Supporting improvements to both the speed of the adoption process and the matching of children and adopters
  • Ensuring sufficient prospective adopters
  • Making sure adoption does not break down by making the right adoption support available to those who need it.
  • Ensuring AdoptWestMids meets the requirements of all LAs and VAAs in the region.

P4. Early help for stronger families

Our priorities here centre on:

  • Share Learning on the cost benefits of different Early Help programmes
  • Understand how approaches to Early Help in the Early Years might yield long term benefits (including plans for 0-5 transfer, children’s centres and school readiness)
  • Compare how each other support families to support themselves through universal approaches.
  • Identify how the learning from the Troubled Families programme can be used to improve Early Help offers in the region.
  • Share learning on Mental Health

P5. Educational achievement

Key priorities include

  • Sharing School Improvement offer in each LA with a view to providing support to each other in service improvement and to fill identified gaps.
  • Identifying strategies and good practice nationally to narrow the inequality gap both at Foundation stage, and the FSM gap in GCSE attainment.
  • Improving tracking and contact for those not in education, employment or training (NEET) in the region.
  • Working together to share approaches to tackle underperformance in schools
  • Identifying and sharing strategies to improving educational outcomes for LAC and care leavers
  • Developing a Peer Challenge Offer around School Improvement Services
  • Developing a Pride in Practice offer around Educational Improvement, (to include NEETs, LAC attainment)
  • Supporting LAs to prepare for inspections, through a workshop led by those who have already experienced inspection, and through use of capacity builders to support identified need.

P6. Embedding the SEND reforms

Support the region to implement the SEND reforms through supporting and disseminating learning from the West Midlands’ SEND Champion Pathfinder, focusing on:

  • Implementing the SEND reforms and contributing to the WM SEND Champion Pathfinder, supported through regional collaboration and engagement.
  • Roll out a regional needs led place planning and commissioning process including a price review process.
  • Improve the interface between SEND and Social Care in order to raise the quality of EHC Plans
  • Run a programme of learning events to support implementation of the reforms and sharing of practice
  • Monitor progress with transfer plans to ensure each LA remains on schedule.

Enabling Improvement and Development

The enablers cut across the priorities above and can be described as follows:

E1: Systems Leadership

This priority is extends to all partners offering services to children and families and should enabling Leaders to provide challenge to the systems in place across the region, and driving Chief Executives, Lead Members, Directors of Children’s Services, Scrutiny Chairs and Chairs of Local Safeguarding Board to work effectively and collaboratively.  This includes a collective understanding of the respective leadership roles and functions around assuruance and governance of the children’s system.

E2: Peer Challenge & Support

Accurate self-evaluation at a strategic and political level is crucial to improving performance and identifying priorities for further improvement. Children’s services that know their strengths and areas for improvement are in a much better position in terms of targeting finances and resources and ensuring continuous improvement.

Peer challenge and support focused on priority improvement priorities will continue to be the core method of achieving this.  The timely brokering of peer support to individual councils is key, and will be made available where LAs have identified or have been identified as having areas for development.  We will continue to develop the model to ensure it is robust.

E3: Performance management and quality assurance

Access to benchmarked regional intelligence on performance remains crucial so that we can identify where Local Authorities have areas of strength and good practice where improvement should be focused.  We want individual councils to know how well they are performing and in what areas, and we want to aggregate this at a regional level.  We will continue to develop our performance information, including the new Scorecard, and new methods of benchmarking with local data.

E4: Workforce Development

Building on the significant progress in 2014-15 to roll out measures to improve recruitment and retention of Social Workers, we plan to broaden the remit of the next work this year to ensure it covers the breadth of Children’s Services.  In particular we have plans to support the Early Help workforce and to develop the role of Commissioners and those who work in School Improvement.

E5: Effective commissioning arrangements

We will be implementing a new strategic approach to commissioning, based on the commissioning cycle of Understand, Plan, Do and Review to enable the full breadth of commissioning areas to be considered.  In addition to this we will continue to maximise the efficient and effective use of individual councils’ resources, including opportunities for cost effective commissioning on a regional or sub-regional basis, in line with priorities.

E6: Shared learning of evidence informed practice

A commitment from local authorities and partners in the region to contribute to the identification and dissemination of good practice, innovation and collaborative arrangements.  We are also continuing to develop new approaches to communication using the latest digital technology to develop new ways of working and to showcase our collective successes.