Saturday, 28 May 2016

Dispatches from Birmingham

I don’t seem to be able to raise the same righteous indignation as Professor Ray Jones in his article on the Channel 4 Dispatches Programme in Community Care.

I didn’t think it was a very good programme, but it didn’t surprise me. In fact, it told me what I expected to hear: that people working in Birmingham’s children’s services department are not well supported, are under resourced, are under too much pressure and are confronted with organisational changes that they don’t support or understand.

And it provided me with a bit of information that I didn’t know already; namely that more than 23% of Birmingham’s child protection social workers are agency staff. By any standards that’s far too high!

But the memorable moments for me were hearing staff talk about changes imposed on them from above as follows: “… coming with new ideas to change the world…” and “…learning a whole new process when you’ve just learned this process and you are told to change it again.” All that bespeaks of top-down change management which has the effect of disorientating the workforce and leaving members of staff punch-drunk. No wonder some of them want out.

The whole Birmingham saga seems to me to be one of Ofsted, SCR authors, civil servants, local politicians, senior managers, venerable experts, national politicians and anybody else on the inside, coming up with ‘smart’ (but wrong) solutions based on a poor understanding of the problems.

I say this: understand the problems and why they happen; engage the workforce in coming up with workable and credible solutions; engage with children and young people and try to gain a ‘consumer perspective’; try to understand why errors and failings occur by identifying ‘latent conditions’; don’t try to be clever, try to be right.

And forget the silly idea of turning the whole thing over to a trust. That’s just an abrogation of responsibility.  

If you live in the UK you can watch the programme at:

Otherwise you can read about it: