What History does (and doesn't) tell us about lockdown 3.
The nationwide closure of schools announced by the Prime Minister on that fateful Monday evening will have lead to feverish activity in councils up and down the land.
For all of the best contingency planning there are always differences from theoretical realities and the situation that operational staff and leaders were grappling with as the week progressed.
It is a natural thing to do to hark back to the first lock down in the Spring to see what the impacts are likely to be. I’ll be honest, some of my immediate predictions then proved to be incorrect.
Back then the sudden rise in the extent of remote working wasn’t something that would have been foreseen especially given the resistance to innovation that had been evident in so many local authorities just weeks previously.
Therefore the impact of self isolation, rather than actual absence was massively reduced. I had anticipated a massive demand for contingent labour, it wasn’t forthcoming. Well….not then anyway.
There was also the best of vocational staff throughout the public sector. The applause on Thursday nights was very well deserved as colleagues rallied to the flag.
What lessons can be dragged forward to the latest lockdown in the delivery of Children’s Social Care?
Well firstly we have the impact of schools reopening. This lead to an increase in the numbers of referrals and the complexity of those cases. Demand for social workers rose and outstripped supply at the time of year when supply is at its highest. (if you didn’t know supply of contingent labour does have a seasonal cycle)
There is also a danger to expect that the levels of attendance that were so high in the spring and summer will be replicated in the winter of 2021.
However these challenges are also opportunities. Whilst there will rightly be focus on those children and families who may be disproportionately affected by the latest lockdown, those local authorities with the ambition and desire to improve their services can use this opportunity to do so.
At the very least all local authorities need to consider how they can engage with their staff effectively and re-engage them with the bright visions of the future and not just of the dark and dreary reality of today.
But those who truly have the will to develop and sell that vision externally as well as internally may find that the rewards truly outweigh any costs that it may incur. To acknowledge the pressure existing staff are under and bringing in the right resource to alleviate that burden will not only stabilise any wobbles in existing workforce but create the impacts that can truly drive positive improvements.
Where councils fail is in the lack of integration between strands of workforce planning. Immediate, short and longer term plans need to start concurrently so that they can build on each other and deliver the best possible results. That is a challenge for any organisation, especially at a time where even government policy can change overnight.
Lockdown one was widely presented as “unprecedented”. This cannot be said of lockdown three. The evidence and data is there, the lessons are there to be learned. Any actions or predictions are significantly better informed. The potential for improvement is immense.
Vric Consulting is here to help you explore the options and plans. We know the range of services and service providers that can tessalate with existing provision to deliver the ambitious outcomes you have set.