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PERSPECTIVES - FROM THE DIRECTOR'S CHAIR

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Peter Hay ...
Peter Hay

With the media profile that came with the report into the death of Toni-Ann Byfield, an external perspective would probably be that this is more of a hot seat than a chair. There are few chances to sit down as our programme of change demands energy and action.

My task is to continue to improve our social care service so it can take its place with the many areas of excellence within Birmingham.

The day after the Byfield report, which looked at the murder of Toni-Ann while under the care of Birmingham City Council, I met 241 staff receiving long-service awards. It seemed the wrong time to celebrate, yet press articles asked that we should praise and thank staff more. The event was a real success, and staff were rightly proud of their achievements.

A major part of my task is building up the confidence of our staff, partners and communities. Visiting teams is a high priority, and there is certainly plenty to see in Europe's largest social care service. A year in post, I am seeing some teams for the second time. This week I went back to a children's home to celebrate their success in turning round the care of some very troubled children.

We need confident staff who make sound decisions in the face of significant risks. A court judgement on our work, related to the controversy in the case of Angela Cannings, who had her conviction for murdering her two babies overturned, highlighted good management and casework. This was against a backdrop of intense media interest that melted away with a praiseworthy judgment.

So I was interested that the press coverage of the death of Toni-Ann started to relate it to a bigger agenda. The Byfield report did not mention workloads or staff shortages, and we certainly didn't seek to offer excuses. The media wanted to try and communicate some of these bigger issues and maybe there is an opening for us to explain more about the task that we face.

In facing these challenges, I always remember that some of our work is of the highest standard, and no star ratings cover a multitude of good practices as well as drawing attention to inadequate work. We are introducing ways of working that build confident practice and we will ensure care services are as imaginative as this city and its people deserve.

Peter Hay

Strategic director of social care and health

Birmingham City Council

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