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Regional Update – April 2023

From Staffordshire’s DCS:



The message from Paul starting with “I am afraid it is your turn to write the introduction for Regional Update.” sounded like a punishment from which there was no escape. Getting my PA to book some time in my diary to write it was the only organised part, the rest has been numerous ideas floating around and the focus changing each day which sounds very much like our day jobs.


Staffordshire is a quiet, confident place where we just get on with it, despite the occasional moan that we are always overlooked for any extra funding, or new funding initiatives, because we seem to be either in the not quite poor enough, or loud enough bracket. It did not go unnoticed that we are one of just a handful of local authorities who did not receive any government funding for setting up the family hubs and we have used our own resources to achieve this. I am pleased that we have retained our earned autonomy status and will be providing opportunities to ten other authorities to learn from our achievement. It is always a pleasure to be able to showcase our work and an opportunity to do so arose recently when Regional DfE officers visited us for the day. They were impressed with several of our initiatives and posed the questions, if we had written these up or shared with the DfE or publicised them in any other way. This made me reflect that we are so busy with the day job that often we do not have time to reflect or appreciate and share our achievements. Maybe we need a slot in the newsletter under the heading, “Anything to Share”.


The consultations on the various aspects of the Care Review have continued and it has been heartening to see so many colleagues from the West Midlands local authorities contributing to the discussion to shape the future direction. The progress is not as joined up and wholesale as we expected, and I was heartened to hear Josh MacAlister on a recent news programme that government must go further and faster in their response. What was even more heartening was that Josh reemphasised the need for £2.6bn funding over five years to reform the system.


The care review was described as a once in a lifetime opportunity to reform the system. Unfortunately, the reform when it finally happens will be too late for Finley Boden, the ten month old baby who was brutally murdered by his parents in Dec. 2020, but the details have been publicised only recently at the conclusions of the parents’ trial. There was a passing mention of an enquiry into the role of social workers and not much emphasis on the role of the court in returning Finley to parents’ care despite opposition from social services.


As we learn lessons once again from yet another tragedy, I know that staff on the frontline will be doing their best to support and safeguard children and go above and beyond, despite various distractions, to achieve the best outcomes. You have my utmost respect and admiration.

Best wishes

Neelam Bhardwaja




This week marks the end of Ramadan and we would like to wish our Muslim colleagues a peaceful and blessed Eid.


Regional Senior Leadership Networking Day:

This is our once a year opportunity to bring DCS’s and their senior leadership teams, from all of our local authorities and trusts, together for a day.


The target audience is directors of children’s services and their assistant directors, including those with responsibility for education and skills; social care; early help; and quality assurance. If this is you, then you should have the invite in your calendar for 19th May, but if not please contact the Regional Team.


The programme for the day can be found here.


Changes in Network leadership:

Following on from last months Regional Update, we would like to remind you that Emma Bennett has stepped down from the Regional Chair role and has handed over the reins to Jenny Turnross. Jo Britton is now our Co-Vice-Chair, alongside Nigel Minns.


Northwest Strategic Improvement Advisor:

The Department for Education is hosting an information event on the upcoming procurement for the Childrens Social Care Strategic Improvement Advisor (SIA), to the North West - a new role being piloted by the Department for 18 months.


The event will take place on 27 April 2023, 2:00 – 3:00pm via Microsoft Teams.


This event is open to anyone interested in applying for the role and will consist of a short presentation on the role of the Strategic Improvement Adviser and the application process, followed by a Q&A session.


For further information, or if you have any questions, please contact Sam White or Sophie Roberts at the DfE.


Regional priorities update:

As we mentioned last month our regional priority plan has been extended for a further six months. This is a reflection of how well the programme is embedding into the way we work together. You can find the regional Priority Plan here.



Key Events:


Equality Diversity and Inclusion Programmes

There are a number of regional and national programmes aimed at enabling diversity in leadership with spaces currently available for the Breaking Through programme.


Breaking Through: This Cohort is being tailored to Women of colour aspiring to management across children’s services; commissioned by WME and held as a pilot within WM ADCS network. As a result, the places are at a discount of (£1584 pp as opposed to £1950pp if you were to purchase directly). This cohort is likely to commence following the summer period and places will be allocated on a first come first serve basis.



More information can be found here and you can watch a webinar here.


Core programme overview:





Please contact Ana Davies to reserve places for your LA


West Midlands Regional Principal Social Workers Conference 22nd June 2023.


PSW’s have shared a flyer which provides details on how to sign up for this annual conference on Trauma Informed Practice and Supervision. Please click here to see the document.


Pilot for Social Worker and Child's Guardian


QPPG will be holding an extraordinary meeting on 26th April to determine two key leads for the region. More information can be found here and here.


Research – Cash for Care Leavers


Local authorities, via the PSW network, will have been considering the opportunity to get involved with the Kings College London ‘Cash for Care leavers’ Research project.


Details can be found here and here.


You can also contact Michael Saunders at KCL for more information or to sign up to this research, if you have not already done so.


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