Several years ago, on a grey afternoon, I checked into a motel on the west coast of America. I had travelled several hundred miles in the rain and was tired. I made a cup of tea and walked outside to explore my surroundings. Imagine my amazement when I saw whales swimming and blowing in the bay.
What I like so much about my work is knowing that I am going to find reward, success and good news in the most unexpected places - usually just when I am feeling overstretched and tetchy. Sadly there is rarely time to acknowledge them. But I am determined my department will fully celebrate its newly acquired beacon status for fostering.
For staff directly involved, it is tangible recognition of their creativity, commitment and hard work. It is likely to be the beginning of greater demands on their time. The rest of us feel proud and want our share of the glory. There is no doubt awards and prizes raise morale and improve standards.
Given the huge demands on everyone's time and the imperatives to reach new targets, it is really important to remind ourselves that celebrating achievement and appreciating and thanking staff are the most effective ways of building in quality assurance. Easy to say and equally easy to overlook.
As public sector organisations move towards integration, it will be crucial to build on the positive aspects of various cultures. I am involved in a group formed to establish a primary care trust. There is an enormous amount of goodwill and a shared set of principles and values. Good management practices are being applied so deadlines are met. A communication strategy is being developed. Enormous care is being taken over staff anxieties. There is a determination to overcome difficulties constructively.
Despite this, I am sure the experience will be less than satisfactory for some of those involved. It will be a struggle to find enough time to listen and acknowledge the contribution of everyone.
I am optimistic the ingredients are in place for a new organisation able to deliver high-quality services.
But I am pessimistic about compulsory integration.
The imposition of care trusts is, I fear, likely to lead to disaffected staff and, inevitably, a poorer service. Vital energy will be lost in overcoming fear and anger and it is hard to believe that there will be anything left over for creativity. And it is creativity that drives these beacon services, wherever they exist.
-Jo Williams, director of Social Services, Cheshire CC.