In 2013, INLOGOV undertook a ‘peer review’ , involving multiple sector and professional perspectives, of the way in which Birmingham City Council worked with schools, health services, the voluntary sector and the police to protect and support children and young people in Birmingham. One of the key questions for the peer review was the extent to which the services really focus on children and young people and listen to their voices. Our report highlighted some of the major systems issues which were preventing effective partnership working and made some recommendations for change. Those recommendations included simplifying governance arrangements and convening a ‘think-tank’ made up of key professionals to share information and to test new ways of working before implementation. Five ‘think-tank’ events were facilitated by INLOGOV and received very positive feedback from participants.
In 2015, INLOGOV was asked by the Children’s Strategic Leaders Group, which includes the Chief Executive of BCC, the lead health commissioner for children’s services, the Chief Constable and the Chief Executive of the Birmingham Education Partnership, to examine the current position and report back on progress made since the peer review in 2013. Our research demonstrated real progress in the way in which different agencies and professional work together to protect and support children. Key professionals reported that partnerships are now more ‘stable’ and that there is a strong feeling that children in the city are safer now that they were in 2013, because of progress in partnership working. There are still a number of major tasks to complete, including articulating an inclusive vision for children and young people in the city, creating better links between children’s partnerships and those, such as Birmingham Partners, which focus on the city as a whole and developing stronger relationships with schools. Plans are being developed to help make progress on those key issues but, meanwhile, strengthened partnership relationships and increased trust are helping partners to feel more confident that they can continue to improve the way they work together, for the benefit of the children and young people of the city.
Catherine Staite is the Director of INLOGOV. She provides consultancy and facilitation to local authorities and their partners, on a wide range of issues including on improving outcomes, efficiency, partnership working, strategic planning and organisational development, including integration of services and functions.