What I would have done differently

As Birmingham Council develops its approach to the new world of children’s and adult care, we have been looking at “transitions” –  and how we can improve the movement of people between services.

Thinking through the things that I would have done differently, my own transitions through the service stand out. I trained hard and learned a lot to become a social worker. Suddenly, largely on the back of being a competent worker, I had a whole range of wider responsibilities. While I put myself through an Open University management programme, I am sure that there were lots of Peter Haymistakes along the way. Reconciling good professional practice within a well-managed environment remains a challenge.

The “in at the deep end” approach to learning remained evident when I became an acting director. With the benefit of hindsight, I realised that the management of an organisation in crisis is all the more stretching without the advice and support of peers. I personally found the leadership development programme very influential in developing the approach and focus that goes with senior management roles.

A change in the leadership and a new chief executive during my time in North East Lincolnshire taught me how much easier change is within an environment that has strong political and corporate support. Before this, the role was even tougher than usual, but the experience helped me to work out its limitations. For me, real change in council services needs team approaches not heroic models of leadership or martyrs. Just to prove that I learn, one of the strongest reasons for accepting my current post in Birmingham was the strength of this backing – and the results are now clear in our recent inspection of the previously “failing” children’s service.

I still want to see social care really make a difference. Looking back over 20 years of child care services, some of the outcomes for children are still much as they were. Social care was late to link good practice and performance management – I want  to see us grab the measurement of outcomes as integral to the future.

So while I would do quite a bit differently, I have never once regretted a career in social care.

Peter Hay is strategic director, social care and health at Birmingham Council

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