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Sue Butcher's December Message to Staff

A message from the Chief Officer/Deputy Director


Well, it is that time of year again. However, before we all reach for the tinsel and the mince pies I thought that it would be a good time to reflect and review our progress in 2017 and take a look forward into 2018.

My highlights of 2017 are the times I have spent with children and young people, for example, when three young people who had committed quite serious offences came along to the Youth Offending Service Board to talk about the services they have received. It was salutary to hear them say that what they regretted most was feeling that they had let their families down. Could we have supported them ..... Earlier? More? Differently? Better?

The Early Help Steering Group begins each meeting with a child focussed case study. The work to support vulnerable families becomes ever more vivid when children tell you, through their drawings, who is in (and who is not in) their family. There are many more occasions such as the Children in Care and the Care Leavers’ Awards Ceremony and the ‘Voice of the Child’ Staff Briefing. I came back from each of them refreshed, energised and determined to do better for our children.

The reports from our Ofsted monitoring visits comment positively on our improving practice stating for example, ‘Social Workers spend time getting to know their children well’. Well done everyone - we still have lots to do but we are now so much better placed to do it!

The voice of staff should come a nano second after the voice of children. How well do you think that your manager is listening to you? How can we improve our communication across the whole of Children’s Services?

I hold weekly briefings at Corbyn Road which I thoroughly enjoy doing but how effective are they? Certainly, the sessions don’t reach everyone even though everyone is welcome to attend. Therefore to improve the situation from Wednesday 3rd Jan on the first Wednesday of every month, I will do a briefing session in Mary Stevens Park. In addition we have information screens at Corbyn and MSP, Managers Forums, Staff Briefings and occasional publications of News In Brief. How useful are they? How can they be improved? I would be pleased to hear from you. By the way I am always happy to be invited to service and team meetings. Do let me know well in advance and I will attend if at all possible.

Not everything in 2017 has gone to plan, for example locating the portacabins at Corbyn Road and the brilliant but ultimately unsuccessful bid to the social innovation fund. There are also times when service areas have been under pressure from workloads, staff shortages and preparing for Ofsted to name but a few of the challenges that come our way.

There is no doubt that we are practicing ‘in the spotlight’ shone by the Department of Education, Ofsted and the multi-agency Children’s Services Improvement Board. They all hold us to account when we don’t make the expected progress in improving children’s lives. On that note do we all feel confident about what ‘Good’ looks like; for me it is children saying...

‘I tell my story once, Support and services join up around me, People do what they say I feel better and safer.’

The New Year will bring with it changes and challenges - both old and new. As you all know our Strategic Director, Tony Oakman leaves this week to become the Chief Executive in Bolton and I will be the Director of Children’s Services on an interim basis until his successor is appointed and takes up their post. I am really pleased to have this opportunity to make a difference to children’s lives in a different role although I feel excited, challenged and a little apprehensive all at the same time.

In addition Suzanne Edwards, our Lead for Education Outcomes is also moving on and from January her successor will report to me. This is a real opportunity to work more closely with our education colleagues particularly as we know that education is such an important factor in supporting vulnerable children to reach their potential.

As we move through 2018 the spotlight will remain firmly focussed on our practice. In addition it is likely that we will be inspected during this time and if we continue the pace of change I am confident that we will receive an improved Ofsted rating.

January and February are looking to be particularly busy times with an Improvement Board meeting, a visit from our DFE advisor, our first ever Practice Week run by the increasingly successful Centre for Professional Practice, an SEND peer review and an Ofsted stock take meeting.

The next monitoring visit is on 8th and 9th February with a focus on the child’s journey to adoption. Don’t be daunted by this level of activity as I know that we are up for it and it’s nothing we can’t do together with our team colleagues, our service area colleagues, our corporate colleagues and our partners in all of the agencies working with Dudley’s children. I really like this quote from Mother Teresa as I think that it goes to the heart of the matter, I can do things you cannot; you can do things I cannot. Together we make a great team. #teamdudley

Thank you to everyone for everything you do for children. It is appreciated and I am really looking forward to continuing to work with you in 2018. Please accept my very best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Kind Regards

Sue Butcher Chief Officer/Deputy Director Children’s Services

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