Monthly Archives: June 2016

Orlando – We are by your side

Colleagues

In Birmingham we see diversity as a core asset; we invite, celebrate and promote difference because it’s what makes life so rich and rewarding. Orlando, and all the other dreadful events we have had to confront in recent times, demonstrate that you can’t take anything forgranted however. The freedom to be who you want to be, whilst doing no harm to others, has to be defended. In a city proud to advertise that it is a place of sanctuary we need to be clear that we go further than this: we also aspire to be a city of active tolerance, understanding, peace, love and mutual respect.

Presently it is the LGBT+ community that we are standing up for. But everyday we should stand up for everyone who values the richness of difference to be found in Birmingham.

Today I am (again, sadly) reminded of the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller. If you don’t know them, look them up. But I suspect that you do.

Mark

The following is taken from the council’s LGBT+Allies Network. Sign-up to the network’s mailing list

As you may be aware there has been a shock wave delivered to the LGBT+ community around the world with the news on Sunday 12th June of a gun attack in the Florida LGBT nightclub, Pulse.  This is the worst mass shooting in the history of the USA.  It has been widely reported that over 100 people were shot with almost half of them losing their life.  The sad news has affected many people in the Orlando community; and a sense of loss and solidarity has rippled around the globe affecting LGBT people, their families, friends and allies.

The people of Birmingham and staff from the City Council are not unaffected and spontaneous messages and demonstrations of support and solidarity have already been made.

On Monday, a rainbow flag, which has long been a symbol for the LGBT+ community, was flown at half-mast outside the Council House in Victoria square.

Birmingham City Council Leader, Cllr John Clancy and Cabinet Member for Transparency, Openness and Equality, Cllr Waseem Zaffar both posted video messages which you can watch below and attended a vigil on Monday night at 10pm organised by Birmingham Pride Director, Lawrence Barton and members of the community.

At 9pm on Monday evening, the Library of Birmingham was lit up in rainbow colours in a show of solidarity.

The vigil outside the Nightingale Club on Kent St on Monday night was attended by over a thousand people and included the release of 49 balloons for the 49 victims that lost their lives.

Speakers included Councillor Lisa Trickett and Birmingham Pride Trustees Steve Ball and Steve Bedser and other attendees also included councillors from all political parties and community leaders.

Photos of the vigil have been reproduced with thanks to Adam Yosef / I Am Birmingham. A full album can be found on the I Am Birmingham facebook page

There was true sense of unity as people from all parts of the community demonstrated their shock and support for the victims and those close to them.

There was true sense of unity as people from all parts of the community demonstrated their shock and support for the victims and those close to them.

vigil

Hannah Stocking (pictured left), a social worker in the Fostering Support Team and LGBT Network Steering Group member told us:

“It has been a heart breaking time for the LGBT community. For me it was important to attend the vigil in Birmingham to show my respects to those who lost their lives and to show that the LGBT community in Birmingham stands in solidarity with the communities in Orlando and across the world. The events in Orlando are a stark reminder that as a community we can experience homophobia on multiple levels. I believe that visibility is an essential aspect of raising awareness and acceptance for the LGBT community and other communities alike. As a community we are united in tackling homophobia. Be proud of who you are!”

Tributes, words of comfort and sadness have been appearing on social media in response to this tragedy from staff, councillors and the community.
If you feel affected by the events and would like to show your support there is another vigil planned for Saturday 18th June from 1pm at the Birmingham LGBT Centre and the Pagoda Island on Holloway Circus.  More details are on the event page

A book of condolences being produced by the Hope-Not-Hate organisation, details can be found here:  http://action.hopenothate.org.uk/page/s/orlando

vigil2

As further information about the background of the gunman emerges, common issues affecting the LGBT community become pertinent, like: faith and sexual orientation, internalised homophobia and domestic abuse.  If you would like more information or support with issues affecting the LGBT community then please support each other through our network of LGBT Allies in person or reach out via the employee forum on Yammer, or other social media such as Twitter, Facebook (see links below); or email LGBT@birmingham.gov.uk.  The Birmingham LGBT Centre also offers a range of services with a team of trained staff who provide advice, guidance and practical support, further details on their website http://www.blgbt.org

Thank you for already showing support for your colleagues, citizens and LGBT+ people everywhere by signing up as an LGBT Ally and for reading this newsletter!  Please talk to your colleagues and share the newsletter with them.

As shocking as this recent event is, there are still many LGBT people in this city and in this country in challenging situations because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  Our thoughts are also with those in countries where being an LGBT person puts their life in danger every single day, through abuse, neglect, torture and execution.

Please continue to show your support, as peaceful change can be achieved by us all doing just one thing. I chose to write this article… what will you do?”

David Board: Programme Coordinator – Birmingham City Council.

“Long ago life was clean.”

It’s been a particularly tough couple of weeks for Birmingham’s children’s services.

Getting out of special measures was never going to be easy and there are no delusions here about the scale of the challenge and the time it will take to improve. These points are crucially important because they are the reason why a three year improvement plan was signed off by our first commissioner Lord Norman Warner, the Department for Education’s Ministers and the City Council’s Cabinet in June 2014.

We have been working ever since to that agreement with three broad phases clearly understood and, crucially, being delivered: year one – stabilise the service; year two – focus relentlessly on practice improvement; year three – build on the improving practice and plan for sustainability. With Ofsted rightly positioned as the ultimate arbiter of our performance, the plan, if executed without interruption and with full diligence, was seen as having the potential to deliver a “requires improvement” outcome no later than this time next year. And we have been making progress broadly in line with the expectations set out two years ago.

With all that’s been going on around us recently it is incumbent on those with a stake in this work not to allow it to be knocked off course. And clichéd as it may seem to state it, but we owe it to the children, young people and families of the city to succeed. Not least, because part of our new narrative as a reforming and progressive city council is to be a starter-finisher organisation; one that sees the job through and gains the confidence of all those who use our services, and the staff that provide them, by actually doing what we say we’re going to do. It is this that underpins the “Warner Plan”. And another peer, this time Lord Kerslake, was clear that one of the critical signs of a successful city council would be that its elected members and senior officers actually stick to their guns and see the really difficult things through.

But 2016 is proving a troubling and troublesome year: the trial and conviction of the murderer of Shi-Anne Downer last month; the publication of the serious case review later this year; and, of course, the screening of the Dispatches programme last week have increased the scrutiny of the city council. These events remind us that child protection is amongst the most difficult of areas within which to work and to be consistently successful. And it is nigh on impossible to say in the full glare of critical publicity that there is an underlying journey of progress. We understand and accept that it’s hard to explain convincingly the co-existence of both positive and negative reports. But that is how it is. We are making progress, but far from everything is resolved and issues, including very serious issues, still arise.

And, it is in this climate that the communication of the intention to work up voluntarily a model for a trust has been made. I think pretty much everyone realises that the timing and specific nature of the announcement were forced by circumstances. What is far less well understood is that the city council, encouraged by Norman Warner, had committed to thinking about alternative delivery vehicles (not just the trust model) as far back as 2014 when it seemed that some of its corporate services might need to be delivered differently if they couldn’t rapidly respond and ensure an effective contribution to the three year safeguarding improvement plan. As it happens, internal effectiveness was secured. But ADV thinking continues because, like most if not all children’s services authorities across England, Birmingham is quite properly looking to understand what platform(s) will provide the very best way to secure the long term continuous improvement and effectiveness of child protection. At the centre of any thinking, however, needs to be what’s best for children and young people and how to ensure a long term commitment to putting their interests first and meeting their needs. Altruism must rule over ideology.

No decisions have been made of course. In fact, we are simply at the stage of asking what the questions need to be that an ADV/trust might provide the answer to. We are, if nothing else, an organisation that has learnt the hard way the value of putting function before form. We are also more than prepared to do this thinking with the Department for Education and our new(ish) commissioner, Andrew Christie, as a sign of maturity and also because we want to help influence and shape a policy direction whilst it’s still in its infancy and, therefore, hopefully malleable.

And so to end, for now, on the two most important points of all.

Firstly, social work is a vocation. No place is this more the case than in Birmingham where brave, talented and passionate people come to work every day knowing that there are easier places to do this job. And social work should be celebrated and cherished because, when done well, it changes lives – which is what we all came into public service to do in the first place. In this city we also believe that the right way to get the best out of people in a difficult role is to provide them consistently with encouragement, support and challenge that is both professionally and personally respectful. In this way we drive up quality and dramatically increase the chances of vulnerable children, young people and their families thriving.

Secondly, when it gets tough you really know who your friends are. And we have been both humbled and energised by so many across the sector who understand that long term improvement isn’t simply to be judged by 60 minutes on a Thursday night at the end of the second year. So say hello to Tom, Jo, Dave, Jonathan, Joanna, Isabelle, Lyn, Moira, Tony and the many, many others who know the value of encouragement and community. And wave a polite but firm goodbye to all those who don’t.

Here’s to year three.