Last night at 10pm, Channel 4 aired a Dispatches programme called “Undercover: Inside Britain’s Children’s Services”. As we already know, this involves a Children’s Service based in Birmingham. As I had predicted, we heard the major failings of this organisation and how fundamental changes are needed if we are to promote the safety and welfare of children and young people across England and Wales.
Now, I am the first person to recognise that a review is needed in terms of how we deliver Children’s Service. However, I remain of the view that it is being done for all the wrong reasons and from a top down approach that will not actually see any real changes for the better. As ever, Children’s Services (or Social Services) is a hot political potato and as such it has seen numerous changes in the decade I have been working in this sector.
However, if we are really serious about getting it right this time, my view can be best summarised by what Richard Branson once quoted: “If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers. It’s that simple.”
Now – replace the word ‘customers’ with ‘service users’ or ‘societies most vulnerable’ and you start to get the picture that, yet again, the Government is going about changes to Children’s Service 1) for the wrong reasons and 2) the wrong way.
Surely, it’s common sense to know that in order to promote positive change in any service or business, we must first look after front-line staff. However, I do not just mean staff protection and development. Moreover, it involves them – those that are actively running Children’s Services this very moment (support workers, social workers, practice managers and team managers) – to be a part of the decision making forum. It is they that possess the knowledge of what it is actually like to work on the front-line in what is an extremely challenging job. Only they know what it is like to have three equally important section 47 enquiries to undertaken the same time, but having to make a decision in relation to prioritisation of work knowing that it is a person on the other end.
So, my message is this: for those that do not work in this sector, if you want positive changes to be made – do not go head hunting for front-line staff to be axed or sacked. Instead, seek advice and guidance from them because only they have an accurate picture and understanding of what can be done for the better. Because I can assure you that they are trying their upmost to deliver a service to the best of their ability!
Finally, to those that work in front-line Children’s Services, I have this message:
Thank you for turning up every day and working with some of societies most vulnerable.
Thank you for for going above and beyond the call of duty to help others or those less fortunate.
Thank you for being a part of a profession that I am proud of.
Thank you for the continued sacrifices you make on a daily basis – often at the cost of your own personal life.
Thank you for being truly inspirational.
Thank you for doing an amazing job.
You are the most resilient, caring and passionate people I have had the pleasure of working with!
Updated 27th May 2016