Thursday, 26 July 2018

No Blame Culture

Explaining why Bolton Children’s Services received a ‘good’ inspection report from Ofsted recently, assistant director Bernie Brown is reported in Community Care as saying that the council’s success was due to having social workers who “… are well supported, have regular supervision that is meaningful, and an organisation that doesn’t run a blame culture”. 

An organisation that doesn’t run a blame culture sounds very good to me. People can’t do complex and challenging work with a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. And not having a blame culture is the first necessary step towards creating an organisation which can learn.  People learn from their mistakes and from identifying weak points in the service the organisation provides. Not blaming people is essential if people are to speak openly about the things that go wrong.

I would like to see every Ofsted report examine the extent to which local authorities don’t run blame cultures and examine the effectiveness of corporate learning. To do that Ofsted, itself, needs to think itself out of a blame culture. Maybe supporting improvement rather than judging, naming and shaming would be a good start.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

The Care Crisis

Produced by the Family Rights Group, the Care Crisis Review is described as “an inclusive listening exercise” involving more than 2,000 respondents in England and Wales. 

The review comprised a rapid survey of the academic literature, roundtable discussions, conferences, small-group discussions, online surveys, focus groups, filmed interviews and meetings with organisations and individuals. The findings are helpfully summarised in Section 2 of the report (pp. 16 – 18).

The review sets out the background of the relentless rise in care proceedings and numbers of looked after children between 2007 and 2017 and it notes the substantial reductions in spending on preventative services in England (but not in Wales) since 2010. 

But in my view, one of the most important, and starkest, findings of the review is that:

“Many contributors expressed a strong sense of unease about a culture of blame, shame and fear affecting those working within the child welfare and family justice system, as well as children and families who are reliant upon it, often fuelled by media reports or interventions by politicians. Contributions to the Review highlighted that this was resulting in a growing sense of mistrust between those working at all levels, and between families and professionals.” (Paragraph 2.8, page 18)

So, the report reveals a “triple whammy” of crisis – increased demand coupled with decreased resources; and toxic organisations which are ill-placed to respond to the challenges. 

Meanwhile the Children’s Minister, Nadhim Zahawi, is reported as saying that “throwing money” at the situation will not work.

Children and Young People Now quotes him arguing that government spending on early support for families should not be increased. Instead he appears to put faith in the Government’s What Works Centre for Children's Social Care (expected to launch in 2020) which is tasked with promoting evidence-based practice and which, he says, will spread evidence of schemes that reduce the number of children in care. 

‘Clutching at straws’ is a phrase that comes to mind. I’m sure that the What Works Centre will produce some interesting and valuable ideas which may result in practice improvements. What I am sure it will not do is to make up for chronic under-funding of services. 

And I don’t think it will have much impact on a toxic culture of blame and fear which the Government just appears to ignore.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Child Spies

It is hardly credible that British police and intelligence services are making use of children to act as spies in undercover operations against terrorists, criminals and drug dealers. 

But that is what is happening. 

And it hardly needs to be said that such a practice is “morally repugnant”. 

But our Prime Minister and Home Office ministers seem to believe that such disgraceful practices – which must inevitably put children at risk of serious harm – are “necessary and proportionate … when there is no other less intrusive way to get the information needed to convict criminals or terrorist suspects.”

It is surely some measure of the extent to which some of our politicians seem to have lost their moral compasses, when they stoop to trying to justify the state presiding over actions which flagrantly conflict with the most basic human rights of children and young people. 

It is sickening.