Archive for February, 2016

Looking after Staffordshire’s children

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

This week’s visit to two teams from Families First and Independent Futures highlighted a number of issues. Firstly, it reaffirmed the view that we have excellent and committed people looking after the most vulnerable of Staffordshire’s residents.

The Families First Through-Care team tackle the vital, and complex, task of the transition of our looked-after children into adulthood. They already achieve a 70% success rate in terms of getting them into education, employment or training, well above the national average of 50%. The question of how we can do better was the theme of our discussions. Two things stuck in my mind – longer-term foster carers have a disproportionate effect on success in terms of setting the child on the right course, and the leverage that we have with our suppliers in terms of persuading them to offer employment to these young adults.

The Independent Futures team work very successfully with families and individuals to provide care solutions that create the conditions for the clients to live as independent lives as possible. It’s not an easy task, and not surprisingly, the transition from child to adult is one of the most important phases in these plans.

With both teams, the buildings out of which they work leave a lot to be desired. Both are converted Victorian structures – a villa and a primary school – and do not lend themselves to modern working. We are in the process of planning the consolidation in Stafford into SP1 and 2, and we have some good solutions across the county, and we will be looking to do better in Burton.

Wedgwood Building move

Monday, February 15th, 2016

Many of you will all have received the recent email from me this week about the move out of the Wedgwood Building and into Staffordshire Place One and Two. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the right thing to do for two main reasons – firstly, when I walk round, I notice that our desks in SP1 and 2 are never full, and secondly, that the working environment in the Wedgwood Building is not nearly as good as that in SP1 and 2.  When we did the analysis, it transpired that we could get everybody in to Staffordshire Place at the same level of occupation as we intended when we opened the new buildings.

I do need everybody to lean into this; there will be challenges, and change is unsettling, but we must strive to find solutions rather than problems. The outcome, with everybody in the same building, will allow us to make the most of emerging technologies, and bring more effective ways of working.  I’ve been heartened by the emailed responses that I’ve received, which suggest that there’s a real will to make this happen. As you will know, JobCentre Plus have recently opened their offices in the old St.Chad’s Reception, and whilst we currently have no plans to close the building they occupy we are working very closely with them during this change as you would expect.


Learning from partners

Monday, February 1st, 2016

This has been a good week getting into the business, with some unusual perspectives which have proved helpful to me.  Let me describe three of them.

I had three trips to the Moorlands this week; one to meet our Moorlands Members, the second to visit Room 21 of Leek High School – which is a multi-agency facility for the school’s children – and a meeting with Philip Atkins, Sybil Ralphs (Leader of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council) and Simon Baker (Chief Executive of the same council) to discuss how we can improve collaborative working.  It won’t come as any surprise to any reader that Staffordshire is a diverse place, and solutions that work well in one community don’t work in another.  That comes over loud and clear in the rural Moorlands, and the strength of our two-tier system, and of course working with Members, is that services and structures can be accurately tuned for best effect by people who really know the community.

At Leek High School, Room 21 brings together the school, social workers, local support teams, police and a number of other agencies, to produce a non-judgemental, supportive facility for anybody that needs it.  The key is making it normal, and getting local buy-in.  There’s no point in imposing the Room 21 template on all the county’s schools, tempting though that might be.  The same is true of adult social care and looking after the frail elderly in a dispersed rural population. Food for thought, and we’re going to work with the Moorlands District Council to see what more we can do together with a second District Deal.

Philip and I visited our counterparts in Nottinghamshire on Thursday.  It was hugely informative.  It’s no great surprise that they are facing the same challenges as us on virtually every front. We’re going to continue with these meetings, starting with a visit to Stafford by Anthony May, my counterpart at Nottinghamshire County Council, followed by our senior leadership teams getting together for some discussions. If they’ve got good ideas, and I think that they do, let’s “borrow with pride” as Philip puts it.

Lastly for this entry, we had an information evening at Beaconside hosted by the Signals Regiments, where they led some discussions with Local Enterprise Partnership representatives of business, education and politics.  It was a great event, and the most commonly mentioned question was “What next?”  The problem with the traditional civil-military “community engagement” as they call it, is that it starts with the presumption that the garrison is separate from the town.  The challenge is that we want to move beyond that premise, viewing the soldiers and their families as part of the county, living in their own homes, with spouses and partners enjoying meaningful careers, and children in local schools. Those are not revolutionary ambitions for us, but are a complete change for the military.  It was also entertaining and informative to be stood on the other side of the fence looking back at the military – it feels more distant than I ever thought that it would.