Editorial Comment: Put the onus on skills

The government is talking tough, again. This time it is promising to intervene wherever providers are underperforming in relation to children at risk or the most excluded adults. The clear message is: tackling social exclusion must be regarded as a core part of everyone’s business, not an optional extra.

Exactly what shape this intervention will take is not yet clear, but could involve failing services being taken over by, or partnered with, more successful providers – whether they be in the statutory, voluntary or private sector.

This is not an entirely new idea and there are already signs it can work: Swindon social services department finally received one star last year after managers from three-star Kent were sent in to support some functions. However, interventions that could see individual social workers and lead professionals held responsible for underperforming services for children in
care are rather more alarming.

Underperformance must, of course, be addressed. But individual failings must be seen within the wider context of an organisation’s set-up and management structure, and dealt with as part of a culture of learning, not a culture of blame.

Punishing inexperience will only result in higher staff turnover rates.

Providing individuals with the training they need to carry out their work  proficiently is the only way forward. The large increase in council spending on staff training reported this week is, then, to be welcomed. This type of support – not tough talk – is what is needed to improve services for all.

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