Innovate Services.

Marketing Director

A new perspective on partnership working

We’re absolutely delighted that local authority partnership working is getting the national attention it deserves. Professionally, we’re overwhelmed with the news that our edge of care partnership work with Enfield council has once again been nationally recognised. This time at the Lloyds Bank National Business Awards, where our parent company, Sanctuary, was named as winner of the Positive Social Impact award.

The award shines a spotlight on our ethical-based approach to private-sector partnership work and our sustainable impact. Something we feel passionately about, and that resonates with the local authorities we collaborate with.

Changing perceptions

Thankfully, we’re not alone in our vision for value-added public-private partnership working. There’s a groundswell of activity and evidence to suggest that the sector is starting to look towards external partners for solutions.

For all the difficulties of this year, it’s heartening to read of the many positive examples of collaboration within the social care. As CQC reports in the third of its Covid-19 insights reports:

“The speed and scale of the response required by the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the benefits to services and the people who use them of creativity and innovation through collaborative approaches.”

There’s no doubt that collaborative working adds value. But how, as a local authority, do you embrace partnership working when you’re already under enormous strain?

Acknowledging change is not easy

As a practice-led service, we support local authorities that are keen to identify better, more efficient ways of delivering children’s social work, children’s residential, and foster carer services.

Often, this means we are brought in as a partner at the most challenging of times. Existing staff, however, are usually experiencing high caseloads, are at real risk of burning-out and disillusioned.

Reflecting on the early days of when Innovate Services started its duty and assessment project at Northamptonshire County Council, Greta Ullfors, Strategic DAAT Manager at Children First Northamptonshire, said:

Coming in at a time of crisis is never easy but Innovate understood the complexities of our situation.”

As Managing Director of Innovate Services, Emma Blakemore acknowledges:

“You have to be aware of the feelings and expectations of existing staff who are tired and at capacity, yet balance this with challenging existing ways of working.”

Being an external partner means that Innovate Services can offer both reprieve and insight. At Northamptonshire County Council, Innovate Services managed the throughput of cases, and used its experience at the council’s front door to upskill existing staff and suggest evidence-based improvements.

Commenting on the support from a manager’s point of view, Greta adds:

“As a senior manager, I felt very supported by Emma and Dana who were incredibly flexible. Since we were dealing with such a huge volume of cases (120-140), there were plenty of times when the project needed to adapt. Innovate would always come back with a range of practical solutions.” 

Speaking about Innovate Services’ inclusive practice-led approach, Dawn Alaszewski, Head of Children’s Services, North East Lincolnshire Council added:

“I have been incredibly impressed by the quality of partnership work. Not just with the support given to children and their families, but with Innovate’s contribution to our improvement plans and ability to think flexibly and bring service observations to our attention.”

Accepting the need for help

Successful partnership working that has a sustainable long-term impact can only happen if an organisation is ready and accepting of help though. As Innovate Services client, Tony Zaman, Corporate Director of Adults, Children and Young People Services at the London Borough of Hillingdon, says:

“Successful partnership working is a combination of individuals and an organisation. It takes an organisation to see what is possible and let it develop.”

Sir Martin Narey , non- executive director and adviser to Innovate, sees partnership working as a key part of effective social work delivery, he says:

“ I learned this first when running the Prison Service when I brought in experts from outside the service to provide drug treatment for prisoners. Later, when running Barnardo’s, we partnered with more than a hundred local authorities bringing our national expertise in, for example, running SureStart Centres. I see Innovate and local authorities working in exactly the same way and where our social work staff, with their specialist expertise, can take away problems for local authorities and solve them. We might be a private-sector-organisation but our values are all about delivering high quality value for money services for children”

Taking services from crisis to added value

Local authorities view us as a trusted long-term partner who they can lean on to improve frontline services, strategically enlisting our help at different times.

Our partnership with Middlesbrough Borough Council is a good example of how we work. Our collaboration started with the quick mobilisation of a managed team of high-quality auditors tasked with providing a trusted external view on the quality of assessments, interventions, and case management. Fast forward one year, we are now on our fourth project with Middlesbrough Borough Council.

One of the reasons why the collaboration has been so successful is the local authority’s mindset in being open to change. As Paula Jemson, Quality Assurance Manager at Middlesbrough Council says:

“My advice would be to make full use of Innovate Service and soak up their knowledge and approach. By working closely together we’ve got a clear improvement plan.”

Of course, partnership work is not just about coming in at a time of crisis. It’s also about strengthening services that are already good and discovering new ways to release savings.

The London Borough of Hillingdon is a perfect example of this approach. As a real advocate for change, Tony Zaman adds:

“Hillingdon has used Innovate Services at crisis point, but also as crisis moves into development and then into added value.”

Good partnership work should leave a legacy

Moving to business as usual is an important aspect of a successful partnership.

This is where Innovate Services’ model is unique. As a partner, we work with a local authority’s existing team to upskill staff, increase capacity, and raise standards. We do this through a combination of:

  • Transferring knowledge with existing staff throughout a project
  • Sharing themes, patterns, and trends with managers
  • Holding workshops and sessions on SMART planning
  • Putting in place a carefully considered exit-strategy

As Emma Blakemore explains:

“It’s important that partnership work is sustainable. That it builds capability so that when we step away as a partner, the local authority does not step back.”

From our experience, by raising service standards, social services departments become more attractive and resilient places to work.

Discover a new way of working.

We’ll help you reframe your children’s services so that you gain clarity you’ve not had before with a service transformation that’ll withstand the test of time. Book a free half-day diagnostic visit from senior members of our team, who’ll take an objective look at your existing infrastructure and performance outcomes.

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