I was pleased Ofsted visited us and four local authorities to look at the similarities and differences in our approaches to practice leadership, and that their write up was so positive.
Their visit helped us to clarify the basic building blocks of our model of practice-led management. Five themes run through all we do:
Relentless focus on children
The first is the relentless focus on children, despite the noise from the system and the much louder noise of the adults in cases, which often makes children’s voices inaudible.
Frontline facing at all times
The second is to make sure that everyone in Cafcass is frontline facing at all times, and that all of our work is aiming to add value to our frontline service. We say ‘every number on a spreadsheet is a child’ to reflect that and to remind ourselves why we are here.
Next, we emphasise continuous personal improvement, continuous systems improvement and continued practice improvement. All of these are measured periodically to make sure we are all improving. This is crucial when we are managing such a high level of demand and when resources are never as many as we would wish for.
Managers at all levels share risks with Cafcass practitioners, so that they never feel alone in a case. Cases can be complex, emotions run high and time is short – in this environment risk sharing is a vital safeguard for children. This includes the quality assurance of work and the management oversight of work – both are vital to proper accountability.
Finally, our programmes to ensure the resilience of children and of our staff are also a central plank of our practice leadership offer. The level of demand on us is inevitably outside our control but a resilient attitude, in the face of adversity and some threats, can be taught, supervised and sustained.
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