Children's services improvement

We have a network of contacts with senior managers in partner organisations, central and local government, and in the voluntary and community sector.

Our goal is to support improvement and shared learning throughout local government.

Children and Young People Board

LGA support offer

The LGA is making available a range of support on a free of charge and or subsidised basis to enable councils to exploit the opportunities that this new approach to improvement provides.

Find out more about the seven-point offer

Councils are encouraged to consider how they might take advantage of this seven-point offer, although we do expect that the sector will take steps to enhance the way they are locally accountable. In addition, councils will continue to support each other through, for example, the use of peers. Through our offer, we will provide approaches to help councils with these objectives. We will also ensure that inspection does not creep back by keeping an overview of the performance of the sector and the wider regulatory regime.

"Councils are accountable to their local residents, not central government departments. Ultimately, they will be judged by how effectively they deliver services, rather than whether the right boxes have been ticked on a Whitehall bureaucrat's template form.

"The LGA's offer is designed to help what is already the most directly accessible and accountable level of government to become even more responsive to local residents."
Councillor David Simmonds, LGA Deputy Chairman

Supporting political leadership in children's services

A number of products and services are available to support elected members to effectively support and scrutinise the delivery of children's services in their local authorities.

While every effort will be made to meet all individual requests for support there will be occasions when there will be limited capacity to provide the requested level of support. In the first instance, please contact your LGA Principal Adviser in the region to discuss your specific requirements.

  • The Leadership Essentials Children's Services programme is a residential development event providing an intensive introduction to the role of lead member. Sessions will focus on: political leadership in the current policy context; exploring the statutory role and key relationships; political leadership in a challenging environment through exploring a ‘real' case study of an authority's improvement journey and; leadership of the education agenda.
  • The 'Must know' guides are a long-standing source of information and support for lead members for children's services, covering subjects including education, safeguarding, key roles and relationships and the impact of an inadequate Ofsted judgement. This includes a must know covering corporate parenting
  • The Centre for Public Scrutiny, in conjunction with the LGA, has developed a short guide that seeks to support those involved in developing and scrutinising Alternative Delivery Models (ADMs) in children’s services to consider the key issues and early experiences. This will be of relevance to elected members, officers, partners and wider stakeholders who wish to reflect on the potential benefits and challenges that new  delivery models may offer.
  • Mentoring – The LGA can offer to source appropriate member peers with responsibility for children's services in their own authority to provide varying levels of coaching and mentoring; this could be mentoring for an existing children's lead member over a defined period, support for a newly appointed lead member or a peer to act as a ‘sounding board' to a lead member on an as required basis where performance in children's services is a potential concern. LGA will source the best fit via the Political Group Offices and the LGA Principal Adviser in the region is the first point of contact.
  • Support with developing effective scrutiny of children's services and education can be accessed via the Centre for Public Scrutiny
  • Looking after other people's children is one of the most important things councils do. It is the responsibility of all councillors, not just the lead member for children's services and officers. Further information on corporate parenting can be found here
  • Bespoke learning and development support offers have been developed for individual councils and councillors, covering topics including policy issues and challenges from the member perspective; political leadership and key relationships and; support for engagement in sector-led improvement. Councils interested in discussing any bespoke training and development needs are encouraged to discuss these with their principal adviser in the first instance.
  • The LGA offers safeguarding peer reviews and diagnostics to underpin the LGA sector-led improvement offer and to support to assist local authorities on their improvement journey. Further information on this programme, including details of how these services can be accessed, can be found here.
    If you wish to discuss these offers in further detail please contact Richard Cooke, LGA Programme Manager (Children's Services) on email:
  • The LGA offers an informal system of support for lead members who are going through an Ofsted SIF inspection. This allows the inspected lead member to get advice from, and discuss key issues with, an elected member who has already gone through the inspection process. To discuss this further, please contact Clive Harris,
  • For further information on all the above support offers, including costs, please contact the relevant LGA Principal Adviser (see link below).

Accessing support: the role of the LGA Principal Advisers

Councils can access support through our regionally based Principal Advisers (PAs). PAs are the LGA's focal point for discussions with councils about their improvement needs and the support we can make available, working with existing sector owned improvement bodies at sub-national level and with colleagues supporting children's services improvement and adults/health.

Improvement in children's services

The improvement offer direct to councils includes:

  • Providing nationally accredited and quality assured courses for practitioners and associates engaging in peer review, challenge or diagnostic activity and maintaining an availability register.
  • Running a series of Leadership Essentials (formerly Leadership Academies) residential course for lead members.
  • Developing and/or brokering, where need is evidenced, a flexible and responsive offer of bespoke diagnostic or peer review tools either to individual authorities or as part of a regional offer or as may be commissioned by DfE for authorities in intervention. These may be offered on a whole cost, subsidised or free basis.

Children's Improvement Advisers have also been appointed by the LGA to work with our Principal Advisers in each of the regions along with a prime associate with strategic overview to pull together learning from each of the regions and advise on the best support to councils.

Leadership Essentials

Multi-agency inspection of child protection: A position paper from ADCS, LGA and Solace

Councils have raised concerns regarding the effectiveness and proportionality of the Ofsted Single Inspection Framework and high-profile media cases where Ofsted has failed to identify serious problems, such as in Rotherham, and where judgments have been changed following intense political and media attention, have added to these concerns. The existing Ofsted single inspection framework is overly focused on social work record keeping and process compliance and does not take account of the multi-agency approach to protecting children.

As a result of these concerns the LGA, ADCS and Solace have developed an alternative, multi-agency inspection model which learns from the failings of the current inspection regime for children's services and seeks to place children's outcomes at its centre. We are pleased that Ofsted is seeking to develop ‘short, sharp targeted multi-agency inspections' which will be piloted before the end of 2015 and hope that our alternative inspection model will help inform the debate on the shape of this new inspection framework.

Enabling Improvement 

Our previous action research focused on the enablers of improvement that councillors, leaders, staff and partners in individual local areas had put in place to drive sustained improvement. The present research builds on this, but has a specific focus on the role of improvement support and on different forms of external support and intervention. The two reports are intended to complement one another: taken together, they attempt to describe how local areas can drive and sustain improvement and how they can best use external improvement support to help them during their improvement journey. This present research, on models of improvement support, explores two main questions.

a. What is the role of improvement support and how can it be effective in supporting the improvement journey of a local area’s children’s services?

b. What are the relative strengths and key ingredients of different models of improvement, and what are the circumstances in which each model is most likely to be effective? 

LGA's Children's Services Improvement Action Research

This project undertaken by the ISOS Partnership and commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA), has sought to answer two central questions:

a. What are the key enablers of (and barriers to) improvement in local children’s services?

b. How can the system as a whole facilitate and support improvement in local children’s services?

The final report sets out detailed evidence and case studies about how local areas have brought about and sustained improvement, as well as recommendations about how the national system can support local children’s services to improve. Alongside this report, we have developed a short summary that draws out the important practical implications for lead members and senior leaders involved in leading improvement in local children’s services departments.