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Regional Update – January 2023

From Sandwell Children’s Trust’s CEO:

Firstly, can I take this opportunity to wish you all a happy new year, on behalf of the DCS Network. As Michael Jarrett (Sandwell Council DCS) explained back in July, Sandwell has a Children’s Trust, where statutory social care services are delivered, along with a range of wider services, including our Strengthening Families teams (early help) and commissioning.

As you will have realised by now, these introductions are designed to help you understand who does what in our Network. You will have also noticed that several of your DCSs and Trust CEOs act as a sponsor to a workstream. However, for several of us, our role (on top of the day job) is to represent the region, both nationally and in strategic partnerships across the West Midlands. So, I regularly attend the ADCS Standards, Performance & Inspection Policy Committee. This ensures our voice is heard by Ofsted and other relevant inspectorates and promotes and develops sector-led improvement. I also have a seat at the Combined Authority’s Race Equalities Task Force. Here, I’ve enjoyed representing Children’s Services alongside public and private sector colleagues. It’s been important for me to make sure that a children’s perspective is shared in a complex agenda that is overseen by the Mayor, who understandably, has a watchful eye on deliverable actions. I am also working with the Regional Team to consider if now is the time to reinstate a Finance Officers Network. Watch this space for further updates…

In the last month we have seen the publication of several Ofsted reports in the region. Not only has this highlighted how much time has been spent managing inspections, but also how important it is for us to continue to come together as a region to do everything we can to support each other, especially as we face ongoing regional and national workforce challenges. We are all experiencing similar pressures and once again this shows why it is important that our collective voice is heard. Following the publication of Walsall’s JATI, it’s equally important that we share the many strengths in the region. Sector led improvement is all about sharing the learning and that is at the core of everything we do as a Network. Reflecting on the outcome of our own inspection here in Sandwell, last May, the challenges we faced, in particular workforce retention, haven’t gone away; however, they haven’t stopped our efforts to continue to improve. I am sure that this is true for the region, as it is for any single local authority/ Trust.

As we all look forward, into 2023, maybe with some trepidation, there is much we don’t know. This includes what ministers will have to say in their long-awaited response to the Care Review. Whatever their conclusions are, I know two things; we have projected our voice, on behalf of our communities and our workforce; and whatever is decided for the future of our services, you all and your workforce, will step up and do all that is needed for children and families across the West Midlands.

As always, thank you for all that you do, and I hope you have a fulfilling and prosperous year.

Best wishes

Emma Taylor

Changes in Network leadership:

We would like to welcome Vonni Gordon (Stoke-on-Trent) and Darren Knibbs (Telford & Wrekin) who are the new Co-Chairs Quality of Practice and Performance (QPPG – Assistant directors Social Care). We would also like to say a further thank you to Sonya Miller (Shropshire) for your leadership up to this point.

With that in mind you may be wandering who are the leads, co-chairs and sponsors for the region’s networks? You can find them here.

What is in regional working?

We recognise that we regularly welcome new leaders into the WM ADCS network and as a support team, we aim to achieve this through introduction meetings and in directing you to the appropriate guidance. As a snapshot reference you can access the regional Induction/reference handbook here.

New safeguarding network:

We have recently supported the development of the Regional Safeguarding Network which will sit under the governance of QPPG, alongside the Principal Social Work (PSW) network and Participation Leads Network (PLN). The success of this network as with all of our regional networks is of course down to collaboration of the expertise, commitment and leadership of its regional members.

BlueSky Thinking Festival:

Once again, The Staff College will be running their Blue Sky Thinking Festival in 2023.

Blue Sky Thinking Festival welcomes a host of speakers, on varying topics which are designed to improve and benefit you as individuals, the workplace and enable change in the wider community.

Sessions online and for FREE. Simply reserve your spot on the call!

For more information and to register please click here.

Key Events:

What’s in a Workstream?

We are asking colleagues to consider the importance of attendance at workstreams but also ‘who’ or what role and authority is required to influence and take action in meetings. We will soon be sharing the engagement trackers with individual councils and trusts and this could be a great opportunity to consider – ‘Is the right person in the room?’ and ‘if they are not there, how are we influencing regional work?’. We are always looking to hear your thoughts on what makes a workstream work, so welcome your feedback.

Upon Programme:

Applications for the Staff College’s 2023 Upon Aspirant Directors Programme open on 30th January.

With applications opening again soon, they are inviting potential applicants to attend one of their webinars.

Join upon for a live webinar to know:

· Who they are looking for & does this programme work for you

· How to apply and what's involved

· What you should highlight in your application

There are four webinars available - book on at a time that suits your schedule:

· 30th January 2023: 10:00 – 11:00

· 30th January 2023: 15:00 – 16:00

· 31st January 2023: 13:00 – 14:00

· 6th February 2023: 10:30 – 11:30

To book your space on one of these webinars, click here.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion:

We made note in the last Update of the change we want to be as a regional network with commitment from each Council and Trust to lead on a culture that reflects the diversity of both our colleagues and the communities that we serve. Below are some CPD offers that are open to all.

Accelerating inclusion through Allyship:

Offered through West Midlands Employers and aimed at senior leaders, details can be found here.

LeadHERship in Colour: Regionally funded pilot:

You will recall that we are running the LeadHERship in colour webinar to support expressions of interest for the full Programme which gets underway this year. The programme recognises that we have Women leaders from a global ethnic majority who have excellent experience and skills across Childrens services and who are motivated to take their next steps from Team manager to Head of Service (or equivalent roles). There is still time to sign up to the webinar 2nd February with further details here. We encourage you to share with staff and colleagues across the breadth of Childrens services.

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