Report review: Pillars and Foundations – Next practice in Children’s Services

| Helen Sharp

Published byThe Association of Directors of Children’s Services

Author – Richard Selwyn

Date of publication – March 2016

This think piece certainly throws up some challenges and provocations to commissioners and leaders working in the Children’s Sector. Most of my commissioning experience has been in this area so I was particularly interested to see what it said.

One of the things I liked about it was the positive tone and the vision for a better future:

“We are on the cusp of wonderful next practice and innovation with overwhelming commitment from the sector to make it real.”

The report is framed around descriptions and discussion related to the ‘pillars’ of service redesign needed for next practice and the ‘foundations’ that enable these changes. These include sections on commissioning, community, demand and integration and each raises some interesting questions and potential solutions, peppered with case studies from across the UK. Each discrete section is well thought-through and argued and I like the honesty of the piece.

There were two particular areas of interest for me because they consider aspects of commissioning that I think I’m slightly wary of:

  • Digital help and technology – bringing automation into children’s services and how face-to-face support can be blended with online technology.
  • Predictive modelling and behavioural psychology – using data to decide who will need help before they need it so that early help can be better targeted.

The report suggests that I’m not the only one who is wary; children’s services on the whole, are slow at adopting digital media and technology despite the fact that children and young people find online engagement so natural. Could this be something to keep an eye on?

Overall, I think it is a timely discussion paper which will be useful for progressive leaders and commissioners as they build their business case for change. So much of commissioning now is focused on saving money and demand management; these are two subjects which this paper faces head on while calmly balancing the hysteria with realistic ways of implementing early help, building social action and employing technology to make us and our services smarter.

It’s good to know that the future’s bright for next practice in Children Services – now we just need to spread the word along with this think piece.

“There is a brighter horizon that makes this an exciting as well as challenging time to be working for children and families.”

To read the full report, click here.

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