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Test of assurance offer – to review senior management structures

A framework for providing support to chief executives or executive directors of local authorities to review senior management arrangements for managing children’s services and adult social services. It can also be applied to include other areas of work, for example, public health, but if this is the case then further expertise would be required.

Criteria for a review

There are several possible reasons why a chief executive or executive director might consider that this is an appropriate mechanism to review senior management and leadership arrangements. These criteria could include:

  • changes in senior management structure, for example, new directors, new chief executive, split functions such as commissioning placed in an alternative directorate to statutory chief officer
  • changes in council leadership, for example, new political administration or new portfolio holder/s
  • concerns with financial or performance management at a strategic level.


Statutory guidance requires local authorities to test the extent to which the organisational structures fulfil key criteria such as meeting statutory responsibilities, transparency of accountabilities and responsibilities, and support effective inter-agency and partnership working.

The LGA offer is an independent review of these arrangements at any point in a restructuring process or review of changes. The way in which this is undertaken would be consistent with a sector led improvement approach to offer critical friend challenge and advice in the form of recommendations.


The approach has been tested with a number of local authorities. It will be completed by experienced professionals with appropriate expertise, for example:

  • an experienced ex-director of children's services (DCS); can be LGA Children’s Improvement Adviser (CIA)
  • an experienced ex-director of adult social services (DASS); LGA Care and Health Improvement Adviser (CHIA) or LGA Contractor who has been a DASS
  • if the test is looking at an alternative combination of functions, appropriate expertise will be added.

This work is aimed at assisting local authorities to understand the impact and risks of changing senior management arrangements, particularly the capacity to provide effective leadership. It also provides an independent professional view of the translation of statutory duties through the local leadership and management arrangements. This work is conducted in a similar way to other activity in Sector Led Improvement, i.e. as a critical friend offering expert advice and support. The children's improvement adviser (CIA) and CHIA can also signpost to further potential support as part of sector led improvement programmes within the LGA.

This work does not substitute for inspection, audit, peer review or other in depth examinations of service effectiveness. Its focus is specifically on leadership and management arrangements. However in order to understand the leadership and management capacity issues, the main challenges and opportunities that the services face need to be explored. It could be used in conjunction with other interventions such as peer review to either follow on from, or inform, those interventions.


Appendix 2 –  a sample of the schedule of issues to use in test of assurance

  • Interviewer(s)
  • Date and time

Reports/Reading: Note that this is not exclusive and can be adjusted for each test in consultation about the areas of focus

  • Council wide
  • Health and wellbeing (HWB) strategy
  • JSNA – evidence about voice about children, young people, families, carers and adult citizens
  • Multi agency partnership documents: Better Care Fund, Youth Justice,
  • Community Safety Partnership, The Multi-Agency Tasking and Coordination (MATAC), Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA), Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC)
  • Peer review reports – LGA peer reviews, regional SLI reviews
  • Local authority self- assessments for children’s and adult services
  • Staff annual health check
  • Workforce overview report and strategies– caseloads, vacancy rates, use of agency staff, staff absence rates, relevant HR and recruitment strategy reports
  • Medium term and in year budget information
  • Risk register
  • Adult services documents 
  • Adult services vision/ strategy documents
  • Local Account 
  • Market position statement
  • Safeguarding Board Annual report
  • Housing strategies
  • Use of resources report for adults
  • Children’s services
  • Children and Young People’s plan (s)
  • Current and previous Ofsted, Joint Targeted Area Inspections (JTAI) / SEND/ Youth Justice Board (YJB) children’s homes and education inspection reports
  • Children’s Safeguarding annual report
  • Local Authority Designated. Officer (LADO) and Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) annual reports