Training at the Top


Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children has announced a new training package for the Heads of Children’s Services throughout the UK.

The Guardian reports that this is to plug the gap of skills as since the creation of the Children’s Services departments in local authorities, which merged Education and (children’s) Social Services.

image House of Sims – Flickr

Since then, most of the expertise and leadership of these departments has come from the ‘Education’ side of the equation – creating a management structure that has, for the most part, lacked experience in social work

The new training programme raises the question that some children’s services directors may be ill-equipped to cope with serious child safety issues.

So the emphasis is to give these ‘leaders’ experience in fields outside their own areas of expertise.

It is hard to see how this development is anything other than reactionary. It seems to be a response to the difficulties highlighted by Sharon Shoesmith, the previous Head of Children’s Services in Haringey who had extensive background in education but seemed to be found lacking (by the nature of her dismissal) when more attention was needed by Child Protection services that she was also responsible for.

It is a ‘patching up’ solution. I am not surprised that a department which is responsible for education and social services (including child protection) might emphasise results in education – after all, more children are involved and more residents and electors are going to look for results in education. It affects all children.  It is just the most vulnerable that need the interventions of Social Services for the most part and usually those with the quieter voices.

The Daily Mail also runs the same story but with a slightly different colour to the story, stating that

All social services chiefs responsible for protecting children were yesterday ordered to retrain in the wake of the Baby P scandal.

See what they’ve done there.. these ‘chiefs’ of Children’s Services (which include Education) have metamorphosed into ‘Social Services Chiefs’.

Will these courses make any difference? Well, in my view, awareness is never a bad thing. If more attention is paid to the needs of social work and more importantly, the need for both funding and strong and supportive leadership then some positive results can be achieved.

My concerns are that it has a little of ‘the using a plaster to heal a more deep-set wound’ feel to it.

Either way, it’s an interesting but not wholly unexpected or sensational response to Shoesmith’s dismissal.

3 thoughts on “Training at the Top

  1. Yeah, that seems to be what happens in these kinds of situations: More education!!! When really, it’s a systemic problem that requires a complete overhaul–always much easier said than done.

  2. “When really, it’s a systemic problem that requires a complete overhaul–always much easier said than done.” – Reas

    Actually there was a complete overhaul of the system after the death of Victoria Climbie, education and social services were merged into one department and the director of children’s services were born. This must be one of the most challenging jobs in local government – some Directors of Chidlren’s services hold over 50% of a council’s budget, are expected to work with health, the police and the criminal justice system to provide all kinds of stuff for kids. There was no investment in training at that time and directors of education and directors of social services were just asked to apply for it and told to get on with the job – one which no-one was qualified for because it had never existed before.

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