The new director of children’s services for Birmingham City Council will be occupying a ‘spotlight role’, not just because this is the UK’s largest authority, but also thanks to the recent appointment of a government commissioner – Lord Warner – to oversee a substantial improvement to the workings of children’s services.
The job now being advertised is a new role reporting directly to the city council’s strategic director for people Peter Hay. ‘We feel strongly that there has been a problem of top-down control and that the city had lost sight of needs and risks at local level,’ he says. ‘We now need to build a confident response to identified needs in our communities.’ This will be done working to a three-year timescale imposed by Lord Warner. A change programme has already been drawn up and the newly appointed executive director for children’s services will be leading on this.
Although the role has city-wide responsibility the new post holder will be working with four area directors supported by elected members. Area strategies have been drawn up and will be going live next year as the authority prioritises reconnecting with communities, its relationship with its 440 schools and its inter-agency working. ‘Our improvement plan, which is the result of a great deal of hard work and represents a whole-council effort, has been signed off by the DfE. There is no need for further re-structure,’ says Mr Hay.
The new post holder will demonstrate confidence in tackling the level of risk in a city with a population of over 1 million and where some 32.4% of children are living in poverty (against an England average of 20%). Levels of risk are now coming down, but more progress is required, says Mr Hay. The new director will be able to work at the scale required through the area directors and partnerships. ‘Good partnerships need us to be a good lead agency,’ says Mr Hay.
The new director will also need to be secure as a team player in senior management, not expected to micro-manage but to lead within an established team. ‘They will be able to determine what they need to have an eye to,’ comments Mr Hay, he adds: ‘We are looking for a person to command confidence at a whole range of levels through a focus on the needs of children.’
The city council is backing its major priority on tackling shortcomings in children’s services with a multi-million pound investment in the service, some £9million extra in the current financial year and several million more in the next.
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