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Social Work Reform Board Employer Standards: Early Adopters

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‘We are all facing similar challenges. Working together maximises scarce resources and
strengthens the infra structure of social work across the region'
Michelle Whiting,
Assistant Director, Walsall MBC


The Social Work Reform Board were preparing the Employer Standards and a Supervision Framework for launch in early 2011 and was seeking Local Authorities and regions to become early adopters before the standards went live in April 2011. The West Midlands, through the Social Care Leads Assistant Directors Group volunteered to take on the Early Adopter approach, and undertook to provide feedback to the Social Work Reform Board to aid implementation. IEWM took responsibility for leading and coordinating this work through the Children’s Programme which runs through the Association of Directors of Children’s Services. As the West Midlands develops plans for Sector Improvement, this forms an element of our offer around best practice.

HOW WE DID IT                                                 

We engaged Local Authorities in the Reform Board activity through a targetted approach to communications starting with Chief Executives. This ensured buy in at all levels and strategic ownership of our implementation. From there we invited Local Authorities to participate in a working group; initially 5 signed up to attend but numbers grew and by the end of this period of activty 12 authorities out of 14 had participated in some form.

In total we ran two meetings of the working group, developed a template for self assessment and ran a workshop looking in detail at the standards. We also submitted a number of feedback forms to the Reform Board. Participants welcomed the opportunity to work together on the standards and to share information about what they were doing to meet each standard, and what areas were proving challenging to address and evidence. As IEWM works across both Adults and Children’s Services we were able to extend the offer across both service areas, and a number of Councils could confirm they are working across the full spectrum.


The risks to the implemention of the standards include the following:
  •  All authorities are contending with significant budgetary pressures, resulting in much uncertainty and change in the system. This provides both challenges and opportunities – challenges with turnover of staff, loss of knowledge and experience and attention being diverted elsewhere, and opportunities through Councils taking account of the Employer Standards while implementing organisational restructures and remodelling.
  •  A further risk is the increasing demand from referrals to Social Care and growing numbers of Looked After Children. This continues to have an impact on caseloads and could also have a knock on affect on Councils’ ability to look over the horizon into strategic planning.

ADDING UP THE BENEFITS                              

The benefits of our approach can be summarised as follows:

  •  Greater collective knowledge across the region resulting from cross fertilisation of experiences in individual authorities
  •  Support and challenge to authorities’ approaches to ensure that implementation plans are robust
  •  Cost savings through regional approach reducing time of individual Councils to fully understand and implement the Standards.
NEXT STEPS...                                                   

We will continue to work with Councils to implement the Employer Standards through our regional meetings, and through our Community of Practice for Children’s Services in the West Midlands – an online resource for those working in the region on Children’s Services.

We also have a follow up workshop planned for October 2011 to benchmark progress to date and identify how implementation is going.

Contact and further information                   

Polly Reed 
Programme Manager, IEWM
t: 0121 245 0223
e: preed@westmidlandsiep.gov.uk
w: www.westmidlandsiep.gov.uk/childrensservices



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