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One of the challenges faced by senior child-care leaders in Lincolnshire in 2014 was how to improve from here?

This was done after receiving an overall "good" and "outstanding" adoption performance under an Ofsted regime, the single inspection framework, where many councils were "inadequate".

The relative success of Lincolnshire had emerged against the backdrop of the pressures felt in all child services in the country. The 2014-15 Budget Report states that the number of cases increased by 30% between 2008 and 2013, while the district's childcare service had to save more than £ 27m from 2011 to 2013 through 2013.

This pressure continued over the next five years, with Council President Martin Hill emphasizing that the central government's budget had fallen by 90%, saving £ 310m, offset a cost pressure of £ 276m and £ 116m Reserves had to be balanced in the budget of 2019-20 in February for the last eight years.

Nevertheless, the Council has maintained its momentum and continued to improve. Last month it was rated "excellent" by inspectors. They praised the support and training of staff, the manageable cases and the innovative services developed for children and families.

The 2014 report highlighted Lincolnshire's capacity as a learning organization that was willing and able to learn from its weaknesses. In the next five years in the year 2019, Ofsted highlighted the commitment of an "insightful, highly motivated and extremely child-friendly leadership team" to drive its improvement.

While the 2014 inspection revealed 15 indications for improvement by the inspectors, only two were recently highlighted.

From good to better

How did the Council make something better out of "good"?

Janice Spencer, now Interim Director of Child Services and Deputy Director of Security and Regulation from 2013 to 2013, suggests that the Council's ability to build on its "good" base to become "outstanding" has been underpinned by a stable leadership team, and the embedding of a clear exercise model.

By the time Spencer became the director of the Children's Fund in December 2018 – temporarily as the current director, Debbie Barnes, as managing director – the composition of the management team set up five years ago remained largely unchanged.

Also launched in 2013 was the Signs of Safety model, an approach to protecting children based on working with families and building on their strengths to protect children. Spencer explains that when the model was first seen, it was only used to protect children. In Lincolnshire, however, it was integrated into the workforce – including early help – to develop a common approach for children and families at every stage of the process.

More about exercise models and safety signs

While inspectors emphasized in 2014 that signs of security "are beginning to change thinking and acting," the investment in the first launch and the six years since its inception in 2019 has meant that Ofsted has been "thoroughly embedded" and "valued" Recognized "was used by a very stable, highly skilled workforce and by partners. "

The commitment to implementing and constantly improving the model is all that Spencer sees as essential to the success of Lincolnshire and any other city council that wants to follow in his footsteps: "You must have your vision, you must be visible senior Leadership Team and you need to help your employees work with children and families to bring about change that is effective. "

We did not come here overnight, it's a long, hard road and you need that commitment, dedication and determination, there's no easy way. "

Constant review

Familiarity and a clear approach in practice carry the risk of becoming stale. According to Spencer, the city council overcame this by being open to "constant reviews of what you are doing."

"If you've tested it and you do not think it will do it, you do not feel like you need to move on," she says.

For Lincolnshire, this meant investing in field consultants, monitoring the Signs of Safety, and determining how it fits the full service. The counselors focus only on the sign of the security model, how it can work more effectively, and how the council can create a consistent path from early aid to cared for children and caregivers.

"We encourage the involvement and collaboration of the staff group," she explains. "We have regular monthly practice meetings. We expect [Signs of Safety] to underpin her practice on a daily basis, so she never loses momentum. "

This has borne fruit in the form of a recent reorganization of social care examinations to better match the signs of security that they have been able to do as part of a state-run Partnership (PiP) program for high-performing, freedom-loving authorities to try new ways of working.

Overcome limitations

This was developed from the feeling that "the constraints of collaboration and Ofsted mean that we currently have to focus on our existing policies and practices, leading to a comprehensive duplication of effort".

The redesign has eliminated duplicates, revised the practice and practice of social work and, as a result, created new procedures and documents to assess social welfare.

"The feedback from social work was really positive, and we did that with the staff," says Spencer.

The PiP program also extends to Lincolnshire, which is working across the country following the scandal surrounding the sexual exploitation of children by fighting local authorities, notably Rotherham. Lincolnshire oversaw Rotherham's upgrade and this year was part of an independent review of the service.

According to Spencer, these experiences are invaluable, as they not only allow the authorities to learn from them, but also to take away something from others.

"It's a means and mechanism to keep you up to date on new ideas and new ways of working while having the privilege of supporting colleagues, but also learning from peers. It's always a one way street.

It is never – "We are the experts and that's how we do it".

Involvement of employees

The staff at the front play a central role in both the daily work and the development of the service.

"We have safety days and days of good practice. Senior directors, managers and council members go and spend time with staff, look into their practice with them and they will show us all their good work. They will tell us some of their concerns they might have and things we need to think about to change. "

The key to this approach was to use the most important social worker, Samantha Clayton, as "ears on the ground" to bring back the feedback of social work.

Just one element of her role was to oversee the Council's recruitment, retention and succession planning, and her direct connection with senior executives made it possible to leverage the findings of exit interviews to further support and retain Lincolnshire social workers. The increased stability of the staff was reflected in the Ofsted report.

Spencer explains why this connection between executives and employees is so important: "Forcing changes on employees is not necessarily a good thing. It must be that we are together.

"We all work with vulnerable children and families, we all want to do the best."


While the challenge has improved in times of financial challenges, it's about keeping service delivery up to date.

Spencer highlights innovative projects they are currently implementing, notably the Future 4 Me project highlighted by Ofsted, which provides professional support to young people leaving the care center or at risk of being taken into custody as areas evolve that they will evolve. She also referred to the Council's broader strategy of investing to save, such as investment in early aid, praised by inspectors.

"In many parts there have been austerity measures, and Lincolnshire may not have felt the cuts as deeply as some of the local authorities. [However]The leader can invest very well to save. "

It explains the thought process with each new approach, considering what would be beneficial for children and families, and whether there would be long-term efficiency gains for the Council.

But the key is never to be complacent, Spencer says: "We always think about what we can do differently and how we can improve the results for families."

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