Re-shaping Children’s Services

Robert Naylor, Director of Children’s Services, talked about the role his Service will play in transforming the Council:

Children’s Services will become more integrated and efficient over the next five years. This means we will look closely at the services we provide and will challenge decisions and costs to ensure the best possible outcomes for our young people and their families.

Like many other traditional councils, we previously identified a need within a family and offered access to one or two services and said this is what we will give you to overcome the challenges you face. Now, we will start with one simple question – “what will it take?”. We will ask this directly to the families we support, interacting and engaging with them so we can develop bespoke packages of assistance to address their specific needs.

It could be that a child isn’t attending school. They’re getting into trouble with the police and their outcomes aren’t looking good. By actually listening to the family and asking them what they think might help, we can identify the real root of a problem. It might not be school. It could be their housing situation or money is tight because they don’t know what benefits they are entitled to.

That is why I aspire for everyone in Children’s Services to develop strong relationships with all their council colleagues as this will help us provide the right support to families, helping them overcome hurdles and maximising the potential of all our children.  

We are now adopting this same analytical approach to look at how we deliver and organise secondary and primary school education and the support we provide to pupils to ensure all achieve. 

For secondary, we will question whether or not the existing Victorian model of schooling best serves our children, particularly those moving into the senior phase. Many will go on to university where most of their learning will take place online and if they do attend a lecture it will be with up to 250 others. Could we ensure a smoother transition if we increased the number of subjects offered fully or partly online?

For primary, we want to look at how we organise our schools, how they are managed, how support is offered, and ask ourselves if other disciplines and professional groupings could make a contribution to key areas to secure better outcomes.

We are on the cusp of something truly transformational. It won’t be easy, but new Council of the Future governance aligned to the five workstreams will help us work as one council.

By harnessing the passion and dedication of our employees – and really listening to our service users – we can make change happen.

Re-modelling Corporate & Housing Services

Stuart Ritchie, Director of Corporate & Housing Services, talked about the role his Service will play in the Council's transformation:

Over the next five years, Corporate & Housing Services will focus on projects that will champion self-service and embrace technology. We will investigate opportunities to share services and implement a re-design of our management structure all of which will provide added value to our customers, both externally and internally.

One of our transformation workstreams focuses on empowering our communities. As a Service, we want to empower our customers. One way we will do this is through self-help. This includes putting standard HR letters online so managers can pull them directly offline, direct data input from source rather than information been sent elsewhere to be entered, self-producing reports etc. By doing more for ourselves we will help speed up internal processes.

There will be a greater use of automation to improve performance, reduce costs, increase productivity and make our systems more reliable. I envisage Artificial Intelligence will provide us with a more efficient way to make payments and process transactions over the next five years. Not only will that move benefit the Council, it will satisfy our service users who now expect to be able to undertake transactions online 24/7.

Embracing technology will also help us digitise our end-to-end back office processes to better meet the needs of our communities. Internally, it will mean we can identify and solve problems quickly, cut down on paperwork and eliminate double keying. This will be enabled by the introduction of new systems to increase efficiencies such as electronic invoicing and online shift management systems for Building & Maintenance Division and Homecare. We will also need to identify a smarter way to do timesheets, moving away from archaic systems and finding a more responsive solution.

Potentially sharing services with other councils to help build resilience will feature in our thinking over the coming years. This means we could tap into another council’s expertise to help us provide a service rather than look externally.

By the end of this five-year process we will be a smaller council which means our services will need to be shaped differently so a re-design of our management structure will also be a key focus for us.

Moving towards a more modern, flexible, smart and efficient way of working will be challenging. It will take a significant change in our culture and that is why the business plan is essential. It provides us all with a unified purpose and ensures we have the correct organisational make-up and the right processes and skills in place to successfully change.

Transforming Development Services

Douglas Duff, Head of Planning & Economic Development, talked about the role Development Services will play in transforming the Council:

Central to our journey to become a Council of the Future is that we operate from fewer buildings. Our Strategic Property Review is a vitally important trigger for change and an important tool for regeneration.

We have to rationalise our property portfolio, invest in the buildings we want to retain for ourselves and our communities and dispose of the remainder. The Strategic Property Review will trigger change, not just for us but for our communities and partners.

The delivery of our new Council Headquarters and Arts Centre will reinforce the transformation taking place and will see us work closely with partners and the wider community to revitalise and repurpose Falkirk town centre as a community hub.

It is important that our use of technology is tailored to help us meet the wide variety of service demands we face over the coming years. Artificial intelligence will help create efficiencies within our Roads Maintenance Division and revolutionise how we operate an essential winter service.

New sensor technology creates opportunities for us to monitor environmental conditions in real time, enabling better control and management of assets with provision for a rapid response should events occur. This is vitally important given the complex environment we manage. 

Technology will also help transform our services for people, including bereaved families, modernising our business processes, enhancing service options and offering novel approaches to capture memories for those who have lost loved ones.

Change is a constant and we must all think differently to seek new ways to deliver services. A recent employee suggestion scheme pilot highlighted a number of ideas coming from staff that could generate income for services. Suggestions have been implemented to improve the working environment and approach to service delivery. Frontline staff are the experts who know what is needed at the coalface. This understanding is essential to the changes we need to effect.

We also need to engage our communities more, promoting opportunities for them to lead in the delivery of services that we have historically provided such as helping to maintain flower beds, with school crossing patrols or in gritting non-priority areas when necessary. These are all measures which can enhance the capacity and resilience of our communities and strengthen our sense of place.

By empowering and enabling our workforce and communities we can make real change happen.