IDEA: joint children’s workforce initiatives bear fruit

Joint training courses and cross-sector strategies are among the ingredients for effective integration in developing the children’s workforce, a study has found.

The Improvement and Development Agency (Idea) has been monitoring joint workforce initiatives in six localities in England, including Barnet, Calderdale and Walsall, since 2007 in a government-funded project.

It found leadership, vision, “building cross-agency ownership of fully shared goals” and the provision of appropriate resources were key to achieving a fully integrated workforce, in which staff from all sectors can provide a more effective response to the needs of children and families.

The report praised Barnet Council’s use of the common assessment framework (CAF) to support the skills development of the whole children’s workforce.

The London borough established:

  • An interim advisory team to provide practical support to practitioners in using the framework in day-to-day practice.
  • A CAF practitioners’ forum which meets every two months to promote the message of integrated working.
  • A rolling programme of half-day training courses covering the Every Child Matters agenda, including the CAF.
  • Information on integrated working on the council website.

Idea identified cultural differences between professions as one of the biggest barriers to tackling workforce issues together, especially in multi-agency work settings. These included differences in supervision and appraisal models and pay and contractual arrangements.

To address these issues, Calderdale Council in West Yorkshire launched a campaign called the Calderdale Challenge to aid the development of integrated children’s services through a single workforce strategy.

A dedicated officer was appointed to help implement the strategy, with objectives such as developing a “shared language and mutual respect” between professions, encouraging flexibility of roles, and arranging work-shadowing involving people from different professional backgrounds.

Managers stressed the importance of access to human resources advice and having a clear understanding of the pay and conditions for each professional group.

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