Hello PPMA members and friends
Sue Evans is PPMA Vice President and Head of HR and OD at Warwickshire CC and in our post this week, she reiterates the importance of HR and OD departments in boosting Children’s Services.
“Many authorities are struggling to attract high calibre professionals into high profile roles in Children’s Services, structures and demands are changing and budgets under constant pressure. Against this background, it is vital that HR and OD step up and lead appropriate interventions that will help to sustain good service delivery whilst challenging the status quo, developing competency and growing confidence and capability.
Who could disagree? We are all doing our best aren’t we? But are we really doing enough? Have we got what it takes and are we really using all of our skills, tools and experience to drive the changes required and to ensure that our Children’s services are rock solid, safeguard each and every child and raise aspirations for the future?
If we are serious about our children’s journey – both for the services and for the children they serve – then we need to be embedding high quality people practices. It is easy to point the finger at the NHS and shake our heads at the lack of workforce and succession planning that has led to an over-reliance on agency staff and short term measures to shore up a demoralised and over-stretched workforce. It is less comfortable to ask if, with our increasing dependence on agency and interim staff in children’s services, time pressures and increasing demand we could be heading the same way?
Local Government is the master of change. No other sector has delivered so much, so fast, so we are well placed to review and transform our services for children. Indeed there is much innovation and a great deal of success across the sector but we must not slow down or back pedal from the need for further change and development. OD can now take centre stage and lead the kind of development which leads to growth and a more certain future. We need to be developing teams, developing leaders in children’s services and embedding the positive behaviours that mean that our staff all take 100% responsibility and really can make the difference that counts for our children.
There needs to be a clear workforce strategy for the organisation and a well- defined plan for the children’s services workforce. Hard as it may be embedding workforce planning is key. HR professionals need to work hard to understand the issues locally and nationally that impact on colleagues in children’s services. What are the challenges? Where are the critical posts? What are we doing about progression and development as well as ensuring that our staff are well led, well trained and feel valued and supported. Recruitment, retention, development and effective leadership of the right people with the right attitudes and skills is the key contribution we can make to the children’s journey where we are.
We all talk about culture but “the way we do things around here” can make the difference between good and indifferent, and worse, lacklustre, service delivery. There are few phrases in the vocabulary of local government that strike such terror into the heart as “Ofsted Inspection”. The arrival of inspectors and the concern that comes with them can cause stress and consternation for all concerned. Are we confident that we do things right around here? Have we got the kind of culture where collaboration, openness and transparency can help to develop the kind of cross agency working that can prevent disaster? Are we focussing on the right things and so that our workforce has the skills needed to make a difference on the front line?
More questions than answers? Of course, but then any good HR and OD professional is a master of the empowering question – are you asking the right ones where you are?”
Sue Evans is Head of HR and OD at Warwickshire CC and Vice President of the PPMA.