Summer 2000

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:-

In the Spring Social Services Strategic Planning was invited by Gloucester City to review its anti-poverty strategy. Mike Williams from Partnership at Work and myself ran the project. The strategy had been in place for about five years and the project demonstrated sharply how far the national agenda has changed in that comparatively short period

Anti-poverty strategies were established by local authorities in the teeth of assertions that poverty as such did not exist in Britain. Services were fragmented and discouraged from taking a broad social perspective. To establish a real anti-poverty strategy in such a climate was like harvesting treacle with a fork. But now the trick is to create effective links among the major initiatives for public health and social inclusion. There is a common agenda at the core of all of them.

There is still a lot of poverty, not least in a pleasant cathedral city like Gloucester; some of it the direct by-product of government policy. But at least we now have some platforms to address the issues.
P.S. For the record, given the constraints, the Gloucester Anti-Poverty Alliance has done an excellent job.

Best Value People

Growing awareness of the need to demonstrate a best value service and of the real benefits which come from using the framework is paralleled by growing anxiety that there may not be the staff to deliver it. In some parts of the country and in some fields of work, such as child protection, the issue is becoming critical. This seemed to us to be something to which we could usefully contribute and we started to discuss the problem and its solutions with a few key stakeholders towards the end of last year.

Since then Mike Cosgrove, who has exactly the right background in operational and human resource management  to tackle the project, has been leading on the development of a broad strategy which embraces
    • Image and style
    • Recruitment and retention
    • Performance appraisal
    • Training
    • Conditions of service
    • Remuneration
    • Sickness and absenteeism
    • Workload measurement 

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

During recent discussions some of the people we have spoken to have suggested a national conference. We agree that an event like that would provide a focus for a national debate provided it were sponsored by some of the key players, for example the Association of Directors of Social Services, BASW, the Local Government Association, TOPSS, Department of Health, the Welsh Assembly or the Scottish Parliament.

Meanwhile we are well on with developing a model on which we are building an issues seminar and a framework for the review of existing services. If you are interested in exploring how either might be of benefit to your agency get in touch with Keith Fletcher here at SSSP for a preliminary discussion.

Best Value

Demand for training, facilitation and review has continued to expand over the past quarter. So far we have been able to keep pace with it with some mutual juggling of diaries.

A pattern has emerged during the past six months: different clients have wanted two fairly discrete kinds of input, the strategic and the practical.

The strategic question is something like, "What kind of agency do we need to be to deliver best value?" 
The practical questions are more varied. "How do we conduct a best value review?" "How do we negotiate best value contracts?" "What do (management, staff, members, consumers) need to know about best value?" In reality, in every case so far, the starting point as been a "how to" question which has led to fundamental questions about purposes and  processes. But it doesn't matter which way round. We need to know what we want to do and we need to know how to do it: they are mutually dependent.

Are you considering how these questions will affect the future of your agency and its clients? Perhaps we can help you to create a framework for providing some of the answers.


If you read the spring edition of  "Update" you will know that Keith Fletcher is writing a sequel to "Best Value Social Services" called (tentatively) "Best Value: Social Services Reviews". It is now likely to emerge early in 2001 and to published by an external publisher rather than ourselves.

All Keith's existing books are still available directly from us or from bookshops. Have a look at the books page for details about all of them.

Back copies

We only began putting Update on this site last winter but we will leave back copies on so that you can look at them if you want. So far they are  Winter 1999/2000  and Spring 2000
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Created 10 July  2000