When I heard David Cameron’s announcement that Norfolk was to have a commissioner come in to tackle failings, I swore mightily.
I heard the news from home, having been signed off sick. I was driven away in part by the feeling of constant failure that comes with working in this authority. The atmosphere has been so poisonous agencies have been struggling even to recruit locum staff.
While off sick I’ve received several calls asking if I’m available, or if I know anyone who might be interested in a locum post.
After the original inadequate Ofsted inspection,a restructure to tackle failings in 2010 saw the whole old senior management removed and a temporary management team come in, which was incredibly dispiriting. And what’s worse is it has not brought us the change Ofsted is looking for.
When Ofsted came to re-inspect, they said they found morale to be good but that just has not been our experience. Social workers feel browbeaten, their caseloads are excessive and layers of support staff have been peeled away meaning we don’t have anyone to refer the cases on to.
Starved of resources
We have been starved of resources and then we get people coming in from on high saying “you’ve all got to do better and work harder”. What do you think we’re doing? Sitting here twiddling our thumbs?
The re-organisations don’t make a bit of difference. The last restructure in 2010 was more brutal and at the time there were lots of redundancies and people crying in corridors. But at least it was done reasonably efficiently.
This time it has dragged on for the last two years without people knowing what’s going to happen and whether their jobs are safe. It’s left us with huge uncertainty. Meanwhile we seem to be returning to a structure much like it was before 2010, but with fewer people in the teams.
Huge staff shortages
At the front line we don’t get to hear much about what special advisers are doing. All I know is there are huge staff shortages and we are relied on to work way over our hours to make the service work.
Meanwhile new layers of reporting structure have been introduced meaning when you need approval for the emergency accommodation of a child you are left scrabbling around for an assistant director. And you may not even know who fills that post anymore. We’re not clear whether that’s part of the improvement plan because no one tells us.
The appointment of an independent commissioner at a time when the service is trying to move forward from a damning Ofsted report seems more about party politics than trying to make the service better for children.
Surely a better way would have been to make the appointment after the first Ofsted report, rather than a number of years later.
It might bring in some welcomed expertise but giving the commissioner six months to decide the fate of the department which is already labouring under the heavy burdens of staff shortages, poor morale and budget cuts is hardly a positive contribution.