Learning from the Safeguarding Early Adopters programme
How can you grow a strong partnership culture?
Carole Brooks, Programme Lead, Salford
The NCB interim report describes challenges and enablers for safeguarding early adopters, including the development of good partnerships and cultures. I consider that in Salford, we have had a good head-start as partnership working is already a strength and in this blog I provide my sometimes ‘out of the box’ observations of what this means (in other words, views are my own and not from a text book!).
For those of you who have not heard of Salford, it is one of the ten local areas that form Greater Manchester. As a smaller single tier local authority with one CCG, 118 schools and a small geographic footprint, the task of good partnership working is easier, but it’s working together in a culture of ‘One Salford’ with a ‘Spirit of Salford’ (badges available on request) that has helped to make a difference.
‘Culture’ a bit of an amorphous word that often gets mis-used or mis-understood. For example, in the world of science, ‘culture’ is purposefully grown under intense scrutiny with measured elements in a petri-dish in a sterile environment. In my personal life, ‘culture’ is randomly grown because I have completely ignored that pot of yoghurt at the back of the fridge for a few weeks!
If I was to unpick what culture means in our context, I see it as ‘the way we do things’ and ensuring the elements are in place, maintained and adjusted as required, to achieve the end result we want. It’s the values, beliefs, behaviours, systems, language, assumptions, and habits in place to ensure that “All partners are committed to working together so that every child in Salford is safe, well and able to reach their full potential.”
So what does this mean? What is the ‘way we do things’ in Salford? There are so many variables but my top five elements for a great partnership culture would look something like this:
- ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’. Whilst this is largely true, you do need both and we would probably amend this to ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast… but a balanced diet of culture, strategy and capacity’ are healthy. After all, the strategy cannot be ‘digested’ without the culture and capacity. Too much focus on getting strategies and policies in place can stifle partnership working and innovation, but a strong partnership culture needs the right ingredients in place to help it grow.
- ‘Function before form’. Through discussions and formation of our new arrangements, we have tried to ensure we start with function - ‘what is it we need to do to achieve our goals’ before deciding form - ‘how will we do it’. This continues to mean challenging ourselves not to go straight to a solution, this applies in case review discussions as well as new partnership arrangements (watch this space for more on that anon).
- Understanding the whole and its parts. Any team can only be successful by understanding and respecting each other’s specialisms. For new people coming on board, we recognised that the level of knowledge to be an effective Board member from day one was not always there, and so we are developing an induction for current and new stakeholders which will include ‘a day in the life of..’ articles and blogs so that across Salford, we know more about each other. We are even trying to get one of our statutory partners to do a VLOG!
- Doing things together. There have been opportunities to learn and work together on key safeguarding issues. For example, joint themed sessions with the Adult Safeguarding Board every quarter and a case review learning event across The Adults Board, Community Safety Partnership and Children’s Board in December attended by over 130 varied professionals. We are writing this up as a learning example and will be sharing this as soon as possible.
- Vision, values and conversations that keep children at the centre. Every conversation, every piece of work should focus on the lived experiences of children and their families, and the impact that we are having on their lives. There is no greater common ground in a partnership, and no greater shared purpose. When conversations or case discussions get too ‘processy’ just one voice in the room to remind others “so what’s life like for Gemma” (please note avoidance of saying ‘the child’) gets us back on track.
There are obviously so many elements that go into generating and sustaining good partnership culture and these points only scratch the surface. It will never be perfect, but we will need attention, and honesty from partners when it is, and isn’t working to allow adjustments.
What are the ingredients and oversight of your partnership culture?
Please share your thoughts and comments and sign up for more information from the Safeguarding Early Adopter Programme here.