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Regional Update – July 2022

Thank you to Tina for last month’s introduction. As the year presses on, it is now my turn.

Like Worcestershire, Sandwell have alternative arrangements for the delivery of children’s social care services to our community. The arrangements are slightly different, in that, non-social care services remain within the council whilst social care services are undertaken by our Children’s Trust. This may sound complicated, but it really isn’t, as the DCS I work very closely with Emma who is CEO of the Trust. We have agreed shared strategic priorities. The great news is that Ofsted also recently recognised this in our ILACS. Whilst on the subject of inspection, I must proudly pass on my gratitude to everyone across children’s services in Sandwell, who have worked so hard to get us over the line. We know we have a long way to go, but the building blocks are there, and we can shift our focus now as we head towards Outstanding! Having spent more than a decade as an authority rated inadequate, the Requires Improvement to be Good categorisation represents a significant signal, to the sector, of the direction of travel and more importantly indicates our relentless ambition for the delivery of much improved services for children, young people and their families.

Looking back, I think I was on my third day in the job as DCS in Sandwell, when the Regional Team twisted my arm and gently asked me if I would kindly take on the role of sponsor to our Early Help & Targeted Support workstream, I am not sure now if it was quite so gently! Joking aside, I was happy to, this is an area of practice that I know well, and I knew I could bring my experience to the region. It certainly is an interesting time for early help, the Care Review has reignited the conversation about the importance of “prevention” over “cure” and the national agenda has firmly placed Family Hubs as a key priority. It is clear to me, as a relative newbie to the region, that we have a great community of practice, in this field and we are grasping the upcoming challenges full on. So, my ask of you, is both watch this space but also, get involved! We are keen to forge links and share planning across all workstreams.

Since the last edition of Regional Update, we have seen colleagues from Solihull speak before a Parliamentary Select Committee and the publication of the Independent Inquiry into CSE in Telford. Both are situations that are apt to shake an organisation, but as a region we rally around and make sure our colleagues are supported, so I am sure you will join me in acknowledging to Tim and Jo that we are all here for you? Also, since last month, inspectors have arrived at Herefordshire, so again, and with recent personal experience, I wish Darryl and his team the best for the experience.

That just leaves me to say, thank you all for everything you do for the children of the West Midlands, take care in what is turning into a blistering summer and when you get to your holidays, relax and enjoy, you deserve the break (honestly not said in the voice of a shampoo commercial)!

Best wishes

Michael W Jarrett MBE

What’s in a name?

“Regional Update” was a name dreamt up by the Regional Team and was only ever meant to be a working title for this newsletter. So, we were wondering if any of our more creative colleagues might want to suggest something catchier?

Please send any ideas to and if we get more than one that is potentially useable, we will run a poll in next month’s update.

New DCS for Staffordshire:

Staffordshire have appointed Neelam Bhardwaja as interim DCS. Neelam picks up the reins from Helen Riley who we said goodbye to last month. I am sure you will join the Regional Team in welcoming her back to the West Midlands?

RIIA activity:

CRABBB activity has now officially been completed and we are preparing an overview outcomes report, which will be published later this month. If you have any individual observations or comments that you would like to share, please email them to and one of the team will make contact.

WM SEND Peer challenges:

The new OfSTED/CQC SEND LA inspection consultation proposal is out now and being considered within the region to respond collectively.

The new SEND delivery plan includes an offer to commission (at no extra charge) a SEND peer challenge, integrated into the wider Children’s Services pee challenge approach.

SEND peer challenges can include:

• A two-day preparation for inspection/corroboration of inspection readiness, with between 4-6 reviewers assigned with one each from education/social care/health and parent/carer reviewers. A pool of reviewers has been trained earlier this year and would be led by the SEND Regional Coordinator, Pat Bullen. There is a guidance document and areas agree usually 3-5 Key Lines of Enquiry. The process includes tracking of a small number of children and young people with EHCPs, as the suggested model in the consultation recommends

• A deep dive approach- this has been utilised most recently in Dudley, where the dives take place once or twice per month focussing on current outstanding priorities for action or tricky issues. This approach has been used with the Regional DfE SEND adviser, NHSE Adviser and the Regional SENC Coordinator, and typically last for 3-4 hours per session

• Peer moderation challenges- pairing your area with one other to challenge one another’s practice and to provide an external quality assurance to areas such as the quality of EHCPs

For more information to discuss the approach or to book in a SEND peer challenge for the next year, please contact the SEND Regional Coordinator,

Key Updates:

Regional Care Leaver Blueprint Launch

We are really pleased to share with you the Regional Care Leaver Offer Blueprint (here)

The blueprint is just the springboard for what we aspire to achieve as a region. It has been a privilege to work alongside care experienced young people and apprentices and colleagues from local authorities in partnership with the Care Leaver Covenant. Although it has been unfortunate that the Launch has been postponed due to rail issues preventing multiple colleagues from accessing the event, we are both hopeful and motivated that the re-launch Event will bring together enthusiasm and action which will lead to better outcomes for Care Leavers in our region.

Regional Induction Handbook

As agreed at the senior leadership event in 2021, we have been working with a colleague in Dudley to produce an online regional Induction handbook for all those new and existing, to the region, to better understand the regional ADCS network and workstreams. We have shared the draft linked to the regional website with some colleagues in the region and have made some changes. Please do take a first look at the handbook as this is designed to support all colleagues to better understand the connectivity of the WM ADCS and your role in this.

The interactive handbook can be found here.

Best Practice Guidance – Effective Placement Planning

Colleagues from the Violence Reduction Partnership (formally VRU) have been consulting, collaborating and co-producing a regional best practice guide for relocating a young person due to significant risk of harm from serious violence and/or exploitation.

This work is in its final stages, has been co-created by and due to be approved via QPPG – Quality of Performance and Practice Group (Assistant Directors of Childrens Services). Please watch this space for the release of the guidance which can be shared widely across children’s services and partners.

Workforce Workstream and The Big Thinking, Recruitment and Retention Event 2

We are three meetings into the rejuvenated workforce workstream and are very much looking forward to sharing ideas and setting goals for a social work, workforce plan to cover the next 3-5 years. Our new Chairs Lee Pardy-Mclaughlin and Sandeep Virk will be working closely with colleagues to develop the workforce plan, and this will be informed by the Creativity of the Workforce and Wellbeing Projects funded via the DfE CRABBB bid. A half day Big Thinking Event will take place in October to present and review work to date and to set further aspirations for the region’s recruitment and retention plan. Invites to follow shortly.

CPD-accredited training study for children's social workers to support LGBTQ+ youth (England)

LYPSA (Lgbtq+ Young People in Social care) is a research project which aims to improve LGBTQ+ young people’s experiences of social care and how social care supports this vulnerable group. We are looking for children’s social workers in England to help test an online training programme for supporting LGBTQ+ children and young people. Participants will be involved in a trial study where they will be randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group will undertake the free and CPD-accredited training, which takes less than 2 hours to complete. The second group will not receive the training but will report back the types of equality and diversity training they receive from their employer or local authority during the run of the trial for comparison. In addition, all participants will complete a few short surveys for us about their attitudes and knowledge about supporting LGBTQ+ youth. Participants will receive a £10 e-gift voucher as an incentive for their time.

Interested participants must be employed by an English local authority and work in children’s social care services. Managers, senior managers and supervising social workers of foster carers are also eligible.

To learn more and register to take part, please visit:

Training and Development Opportunities


Aspirant Leaders – Coaching Element places

Could you see yourself aspiring to take that next leap in your career and would value some coaching to get you there? There are now three openings to receive career coaching for those aspiring to reach the next level in their career. This could be an aim to become Assistant Director in the next three years or Team Managers or Assistant Team Managers looking to take the next step. Please get in touch with Info@wmchildrensservices as soon as possible to book your place. Places will be allocated on a first come, first serve basis.

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