From Solihull’s DCS:
Well, here I am 6 months into the DCS role in Solihull. Whilst my induction was torpedoed by Ofsted notifying us of an ILACS inspection on my day 8, and the statutory commissioner arriving 19 days later, nevertheless my welcome to the region has been warm and I’m grateful to you, my new colleagues, for your support. My route to becoming a DCS is as a social worker, and my career so far has been based in the South West (Swindon, Bath) and the South East (West Berkshire) - so the West Midlands is a new region to me.
Earlier in March we held our annual development day for DCS’s and Trust CEO’s. As always, and despite the valiant efforts of the Regional Team, trying to get the 16 of us in a room at the same time, is a challenge. However, aside from two impacted by Ofsted visits and one sickness, we did manage 13 of us! We spent much of the day considering the strategic implications of the Stable Homes, Built on Love paper and also recent research and recommendations in regard to Regional Improvement and Innovation Alliances. Clearly these are going to significantly challenge the way we work, both as individual local authority areas, and collectively, over the coming years. Nevertheless, it was great to recognise, that when we also looked at our current Regional Priority Plan, that we are well placed to forge ahead as a region.
The following day, and despite the best efforts of the weather (who knew snow in March was a thing?), directors were joined by members of their leadership teams, for our peer challenge. It was good to see so many in the room, and with some last-minute contingency planning others on screen. Peer challenge is a well-trodden path that enables reflection challenge and support in a way that inspection doesn’t. As a group of directors and having done a lot of “team building” work over the last year, we have become a formidable collective of critical friends, so yes, the challenge was at times assertive, but always with a genuine hand of support on the shoulder. Output from the event will be a little delayed, because of the last-minute changes, but we anticipate this being published at the end of April, and from there it will be used to develop further region led sector support and the coming years round of Beyond Good Masterclasses.
So, lots going on, as a region at the moment and thanks to colleagues from both the LGA and DfE who financially supported the above events and for their ongoing commitment to us.
Finally, and with a sense of reflection for the news story coming out of Reading this week. Working in the children’s sector is tough, and at times maybe the inspection regime, makes it tougher than it should, or could be. So, on behalf of the DCS network, thank you and please find time to look after yourself.
This week marks the beginning of Ramadan and we would like to wish our Muslim colleagues a peaceful and blessed month.
Changes in Network leadership:
As many of you are aware, Emma Bennett is stepping down from the Regional Chair role and is handing over the reins to Jenny Turnross. Jo Britton will be stepping into the Co-Vice-Chair role, alongside our existing CVC Nigel Minns. All changes take place from 1st April.
I am sure you will join the Regional Team in thanking Emma for her stewardship over the last two years and in wishing Jenny well as we move forward, as a region.
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.
Regional priorities update:
As Pete mentioned, above, the directors recently met for their annual development day and from this we reached several agreements, including the extension of or regional priority plan for an additional six months now that we know the programme is embedding into the way we work together. You can find the regional Priority plan here.
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.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion:
Over the last month the inaugural cohort of women of colour aspiring to become Heads of Service have commenced the first session of the LeadHERship in Colour programme with positive reviews so far. If you know a colleague is undertaking this programme, then you will likely already know it takes strength and determination on every level to see it though.
We had 51 expressions of interest for the programme but just 20 places. With this in mind and a reflection of the incredible women leaders who we could not offer a place to at this time, colleagues will have received an invite for Saj’s group coaching session which is running at no additional cost and commencing on 28th March.
Another gap in provision has been identified for women of colour aspiring to become team managers, or equivalent. We have therefore reserved a cohort of 12 places for the Breaking Through programme with WM Employers . The places have been reserved for Councils and Trusts who demonstrated initial interest and any remaining places will be offered to all LAs, on a first come first served basis.
As we already know, inclusion and allyship needs to come from the very senior levels of our structures and WME have recently shared there are still places on their Accelerating Inclusion Through Allyship programme.
Want to know more about some of the regional programmes?
Accelerating Inclusion Through Allyship - Senior leaders council wide spot purchase direct with WME – PLACES STILL AVAILABLE
BALI – Black and Asian Leadership Initiative Staff College – further details here.
Regionally held Pilots:
Breaking Through – Cohort tailored to women of colour aspiring to management across children’s services, commissioned by WME and held as a pilot within WM ADCS network at a discount. Ana Davies will be in touch with Workforce, PSW and AD colleagues where further places are available to purchase.
LeadHERship in Colour – Cohort of 20 women of colour leaders aspiring to head of service level as the next progression. Cohort 1 Pilot underway.
WM ADCS will provide feedback on both LeadHERship in Colour and Breaking Through programmes post completion.