This is the web version of our (hard copy) newsletter . The layout is different - columns are a real pain on a computer monitor - but the text is essentially the same. If you don't have Internet access at work and you would like to receive a (postal) copy of future editions let us know.

Keith Fletcher writes:-

My last major personal assignment was a new departure for me. I joined a team from KPMG, the international auditors. Our brief was to advise a local authority social services department how to stay within their control budget (which they had exceeded in previous years) while continuing to strengthen the quality of their services. All this was in the context of their response to a less than glowing SSI/Audit Commission Joint Review of their services the previous year.

We had less than a month to undertake a review of the whole department in order to develop a reasonable analysis of likely service impact and the financial and management structure underpinning it. It was a challenge! The outcome was a report with which we felt considerable professional satisfaction. And the local authority was well pleased with the framework for action it offered them. A nice piece of work; it was a pleasure to be part of it.

Best Value People

Avid readers will know that we used the winter edition of Update to launch a staff care and support package for social services agencies facing recruitment and retention difficulties. We were not entirely surprised by the amount of interest it stimulated and we have had some very useful feedback during the exploratory discussions which have followed. There is little doubt that we initially underestimated both the scale of the problem (especially in child care and mental health) and the breadth of the response you might want to find solutions to it.
A broad strategy is needed which embraces 
      • Agency image
      • Recruitment 
      • Competition for the best people
      • Appraisal and promotion
      • Skills and training
      • Leadership and communication
      • Conditions of service
      • Remuneration
      • Sickness and absenteeism
      • Support systems

In addition to the support people need to manage stress, bullying, racism, sexism and violence.

To offer you such a breadth of support we needed the expertise and experience of someone with an outstanding track record in what is now universally called “human resource management” to add to our existing resources. To cut a long story short we have joined forces for this project with Mike Cosgrove who has exactly that background. Among other things he has the experience of developing a new human resource management policy for Kent Social Services Department. He employed a range of radical solutions which will be of interest and value to social services managers. Now he is working as an independent consultant.

During the next few months we will be talking to local authorities, voluntary and independent agencies to tailor the service we offer to your needs. We will also talk to the Association of Directors of Social Services, TOPSS, Department of Health and the Welsh Assembly to get a national perspective.

If this is an issue for you get in touch with me, Keith Fletcher, in the first instance and let’s discuss the problem from your perspective and some ways of addressing it.

Best Value Courses

We ran an open one day course on targeting best value at the National Institute for Social Work on 22 February and the feedback indicated that it was very useful to the participants. But I’m sorry to say that it was the last of the series, at least for the time being. 


Training in best value sits well with our core business which is  review and audit and we have run successful events for social services agencies. The problem is the management of open events: they don’t fit well with the rest of our business. We must either contract out the conference organisation or cease to provide the service. Sadly the logic of the situation led us to the latter conclusion.

But the good news is that we are still happy to provide in house courses and seminars tailored specifically to the needs of individual agencies. All you have to do is provide the venue, the people and the organisation and we will run the course you want. It’s a lot less expensive too. A place on an open one day course was £139 + VAT. The equivalent cost for a similar purchased or sponsored course for twelve participants is £46.83 + VAT per head.


Everything covered in this edition of Update, and a good deal more besides, is covered in more detail on our website. And if you are in a hurry to get any of the information referred to on the response form you will find that there too, ready to download. You will also find a useful links page. When you get the hang of it it will take you almost anywhere a reasonable social services enquirer might want to go. Have a look.


Keith Fletcher is writing a sequel to “Best Value Social Services” - working title: “Best Value: Social Services Reviews”. It is likely to be published some time between early autumn and the end of the year. Watch this space.


SSSP continues to develop an ever closer working relationship with Partnership at Work, on social inclusion and best value projects in particular. This is of enormous benefit to clients because it doubles the flexibility and the range of skills we can deploy without increasing the infrastructure costs at all. The other networks of both consultancies are not adversely affected by this in any way.

Update response form

The hard copy version includes a post-back page to order books or follow up on the services provided by SSSP. You can do that online if you wish by completing a response page.

Back copies

We only began putting Update on this site last quarter but we will leave back copies on so that you can look at them if you want. The last one was Winter 1999/2000
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Created 12 March 2000