Conducting a Peer Challenge in Gloucestershire

I spent last week in Gloucestershire as part of the Peer Challenge for the County Council. This is the sector-led improvement programme, organised by the Local Government Association (LGA), in which a group of serving politicians and officers are invited to act as critical friends to offer advice and observations on how they are doing as a local authority.

I’ve done quite a lot of visits and inspections in my previous career, and this was a variation on the theme – very constructive and at the same time, very thorough.  We will be receiving our own Peer Challenge in September and, after this last week, I’m looking forward to it. The key is being open and honest. The team are drawn from organisations which are facing similar challenges to our own, and will, if my experience is anything to go by, learn as much to take home as they offer in advice.

Gloucestershire are a similar authority to ourselves. They’ve had some problems in their Children’s Service in the past 18 months, and are working to solve them, but the background challenges of rising demand and difficulty recruiting and retaining good quality social workers are similar to ours. We had some fascinating discussions about how to achieve our aims in a constructive manner. On the positive side as something to take home to Staffordshire, their ambulance trust is doing some very interesting things with their fire service and adult social care service, with a level of integration that is highly impressive. One always learns something.

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