Peer review findings into children's services

By on 07/02/2014 in Cabinet, Cllr Jones

A local government association review into Birmingham city council's children's services is to be presented to cabinet.

The LGA's peer review was commissioned by the council's director of children's services as part of the service's improvement strategy. Peer challenges are a recognised way of bringing some of the best people in local government to review practice in another council and bring about improvement. The team in Birmingham included Councillor David Simmonds, the LGA's lead member of children and families, and David Hill, Essex County Council's director of children's services.

Cabinet is asked to consider the review alongside related reviews, such as the Department for Education 'Le Grand' review.

The review says there is an emerging strategy for improving outcomes and a strong political vision. It also comes to a very clear conclusion that the improvement of children's services is possible and that the city has the potential to improve. To do this the review helps by setting out some areas which need attention, such as rebuilding trust and confidence within and between agencies, improving the morale of social workers  and strengthening performance management and scrutiny. The review also asks the council to think more long-term as it says that what is less clear are the hopes for children and young people in the city.

The LGA findings highlight two issues for immediate action: concerns about the entry point into social care, and unallocated cases that are not the result of recording or data anomalies. Both of these issues have had a lot of work done since the review to make the necessary immediate improvements. As the early findings of the LGA peer challenge were shared with the Le Grand review, that improvement will have had further tests.

The letter's key findings look at vision, performance, leadership, change management, communications and workforce.

Councillor Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children and family services, said: “I am grateful for the clarity and honesty of the peer review report, which clearly sets out where we are and what improvements still need to be made.

“The report acknowledges that the position here remains fragile - which is something we've been very clear on – but it also points to some really positive signs, saying that we have the potential to improve and run a good, or even better, level of children's services. This is incredibly important to us, and I hope staff and partners can find courage in this.

“With the strategic director I recently set out a strategy for improving our children's services, which included a major financial investment and that is unambiguously based around proper partnership working.  We will now be developing an action plan in the light of these latest findings and the outcomes of the DfE review which we are expecting later this month.”

The LGA peer review report will go to cabinet on 17 February 2014.

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