Archive for July, 2017

SLT Away Day; Providing a better health and care system

Monday, July 31st, 2017

The Cabinet and the Senior Leadership Team had our long-awaited Away Day last Monday to consider the direction of Staffordshire County Council over the coming 4 years.  It is probably just as well that we did not have it in the weeks following the county council elections in May, as so much has changed in the intervening time.  Saving any other shocks and upsets, we hopefully have as clear a view of the way ahead as we’re going to get.

The themes were all familiar to us: the future of Health and Care in Staffordshire; how we grow the economy and provide adequate housing for those people whom we hope to attract to the county; how we continue the improvement in Staffordshire’s schools in an environment where our direct influence is waning; and, of course, the future of local government finance to look after the most vulnerable and needy in our society.  We did not aim to get into detail, but rather to sketch out our aims and to make objective judgements on the relative importance of each area, and on relationships with organisations and people.  It was probably one of the most useful days that I have spent since coming to this role over 2 years ago.

On Health and Care, it is clear that we need to do something different.  Staffordshire and Stoke’s Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) has just been graded in the bottom 5 of the 44 STPs nationally – needing the most improvement.  All but one of the measures are in the health arena, with the Delayed Transfers of Care (DTOCs) being the only one with a local authority flavour.  It is often said as a joke that the definition of madness is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results, but in this case, as there so often is, there is a germ of truth in the witticism; the national structures and directives are clearly not achieving the results that anybody seeks.  I felt very proud of our politicians at the full Council meeting the week before last, when all members put party interests aside to vote unanimously for a motion to work with the NHS and the people of Staffordshire to provide the health and care system that meets our needs in the future.  Unlike so many other parts of the country, we are engaged closely with our health colleagues locally, but we do need to align responsibility, accountability and authority locally if we are to make the system work as it should.

 

Improving children’s services

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

I attended a working dinner this week with a group of local authority leaders on the subject of improving children’s services. It was under Chatham House rules, so I will respect the anonymity of the comments made by the other attendees. But the conversation did make me think, and I’d value your views.

What struck me was the almost complete focus on structural solutions and on the role of individuals in senior leadership positions in transforming children’s services.  I can’t help thinking that it is leadership at all levels, along with professionalism, mutual trust and confidence, that has got us to the point in Staffordshire where we have the excellent Children’s Services that we have.

One of my aims since arriving in this role just over 2 years ago has been to align responsibility with accountability and authority.  I would be the first to acknowledge the role of leadership in success, but my experience in many appointments is that you’re only as good as the people whom you lead.

We have an ambitious programme in the Children’s System to reduce the number of Looked After Children, and to produce better outcomes for those for whom we become the corporate parent; these will require our combined efforts, whether you are a child protection social worker, a family support worker, work in a Local Support Team, or in a supporting role such as ICT, or indeed as a senior leader.  As those of us know who are involved in this complex business, there are no easy solutions. Despite that, I have confidence that we have the right people and the right plan.

 

People First Digital Always, and the smart working survey

Monday, July 17th, 2017

There has been some great progress made in recent months on smart working and specifically in the digital arena.  The initial feedback from the smart working questionnaire about which I wrote to everybody last week is very positive, and I would encourage those of you have not yet completed the survey to do so before the closing date this week.  Although it is always reassuring to hear that things are moving in the right direction, and that people feel that their views and aspirations are being addressed, the real value of this survey are the suggestions and ideas from those who are actually doing the job.  You will know far better than me what could be done to improve the way that we do things, and achieve better outcomes for the residents of Staffordshire.

Specifically, I am keen to use digital means to achieve the outcomes that we seek – prosperous, healthy and secure residents.  The overarching idea is that we enable ourselves to do the human aspects of our jobs more effectively by using technology.  It’s not about replacing people with technology, automating processes, or operating machines where one only sees the machine, but rather about using the technology to free us up to concentrate on the things that people do best, namely interact with other people.  We have been thinking about what this would look like in the Senior Leadership Team (SLT), and a suggestion for the strapline is “People First, Digital always”.  I quite like that, and I’d appreciate your views on this, and any other subject.

P.S.  As we enter into Summer Holiday season, can I take this opportunity to wish you, your families and your loved ones, a relaxing and enjoyable break when it comes.

Video Blog: The importance of digital

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

 

 

In my first video blog, I talk about the importance of digital and the opportunities it presents to us here in Staffordshire.

A transcript of the video is also available here:  CXO Video Blog 1 Transcript