A wise old head of a children’s home once said to me “it is the long-distance work that counts”. What matters is the daily reliability, skill and dedication of social care professionals, and is based on knowledge, tested practice and experience. But this “long-distance work” starts out as innovation, and this is why The Excellence Network is so important.
The categories chosen for recognition are central to social care for children. User involvement and self-directed care are inextricably linked and find themselves increasingly reflected in participation work.
Partnership working is an important theme to The Excellence Network. For the voluntary sector, it is often partnership not only with local authorities to deliver services but increasingly with other voluntary sector providers. The scope for innovation here is limitless.
Research shows that early intervention in the lives of children is the main way to address inequality and deprivation. Through Sure Start, children’s centres and the coming together of education and social care, the government has shown real commitment to early intervention. The growth of family group conferencing, family support workers, mentoring schemes and parenting programmes all represent innovation in children’s services that come from bright ideas and practice elsewhere.
But at the heart of innovation has to be the willingness to be evaluated. Social care has been reluctant to embrace the kind of rigorous research. The confidence to do this and the dissemination of this learning through training (the last pillar of the Excellence Network) is at the heart of maturing as a profession.
Chris Hanvey is UK director of operations of Barnardo’s and will judge entries submitted from teams working with children and families and children in care
MEET THE OTHER JUDGES
● Kathryn Stone is chief executive of Voice UK, a national charity that supports people with learning disabilities who have been abused, and will judge entries submitted from teams working with people with learning disabilities.
● Dr Andrew McCulloch is chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, which incorporates the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, and will judge entries submitted from teams working with people with mental health issues.
● Sue Bott, who is disabled, is strategic director of the National Centre for Independent Living and will judge entries submitted from teams working with people with disability.
This article appeared in the 15 November issue under the headline “Innovation is the key to better services”