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Where a systems perspective can help

A systems way of thinking may be applied to each of the fields set out below. Acted upon together, they will help to deliver a whole systems approach.

1. How improvement works

Whole system

Design, conduct and evaluate the overall intervention to improve childcare in the local authority area.

Component parts

Design, conduct and evaluation of component parts of the intervention in the context of the whole, for example:

  • Strategies for improvement
  • Organisational learning
  • Training, development; e.g. any managers’ action learning programme
  • Monitoring and managing anticipated risks to the change programme; e.g. slipping back into old habits when under pressure or criticism
  • Monitoring and reducing the natural growth of bureaucracy
  • Monitoring and reducing the many forms of waste, including leadership waste
  • Increasing the range and ease of discussibility
  • How recommendations are acted upon, arising from:
    • Munro report and evaluations
    • serious case reviews
    • Ofsted inspections
    • government directives/initiatives
    • front-line workers’ daily experience
    • reflective practice/active reflexivity
    • Project Board
    • Systems Change Board
    • Cabinet reports, etc.

2. How the providers work (both intended and actual)

  • Allocation of resources
  • Reporting structure
  • Laid-down processes
  • Use of hierarchy
  • Distribution of power
  • Role and composition of multi-disciplinary Social Work Unit
  • Role of clinicians
  • Role of Group Managers
  • Role of the Unit Coordinator
  • Role of Children’s Practitioner
  • Role of Project Board
  • Role of other support units and services
  • Role of Joint Resource Allocation Panel
  • Role of the Weekly Resource Panel
  • Skills and professional disciplines
  • Quality of inter and intra relationships
  • Who takes decisions and matrix of responsibility
  • Acts of omission as well as of commission/decisions
  • Keeping records
  • Performance management (of individuals, teams and the system)
  • Being held accountable (processes and summoning)
  • Discipline
  • Training
  • Attendance, sickness
  • Time management
  • Risk aversion and risk management
  • Methodological approach
  • Serious case reviews
  • Networking
  • Commissioning

Agency and service partners, including police, GPs, courts, etc.

Who takes the lead, contact, liaison, communication, relationship, reporting, collective performance,and the equivalent of the above items as appropriate.

Environment and other stakeholders, including:

Government Department for Children, Schools and Families, Ofsted, NSPCC, foster carers, etc.

3. How the work works (both intended and actual)

  • How work comes in (contacts, enquiries and requests)
  • Work flows
  • Work analyses
  • End-to-end times
  • Timescales
  • Caseloads
  • Prioritising
  • Complaints
  • Assessments
  • Decisions
  • Customer pull
  • Bottlenecks
  • Feedback
  • etc.

4. Those who need child protection, care and support

Children, young people and their families:

  • New Cases
  • Looked after children


  • family support
  • to be taken into care
  • adoption
  • fostering
  • physical and emotional development


  • abuse
  • behavioural difficulties
  • schooling
  • alcohol

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