When a child goes into care, the Council becomes the Corporate Parent. This means taking collective responsibility (council, councillors, employees, and partner agencies) for providing the best possible care and safeguarding for the children who are looked after by the council.
Being a Corporate Parent has to be one of the most important roles for a local councillor, after all, council’s supports some of the most vulnerable children in society.
So getting Corporate Parenting right is essential. But it’s essential for all councillors not just those with more targeted responsibilities such as the Cabinet Member or members of the Corporate Parenting Board.
Having recently supported a Council in the South-West to review its approach to Corporate Parenting - a light-bulb went on. I have been supporting councillors for many years to see how they can be effective corporate parents, and in the main this has been very effective, but the support and induction that councillors receive explains their role in a single dimension. Councillors wear many hats in their communities and one dimension just doesn't work or explain the role sufficiently.
Councillors find it hard to be an effective corporate parent as they are one, or even two steps removed from actually providing the care; think of it like a grandparent who has an interest in making sure that parenting is good - but has little control over how it is done.
For a councillor, being an effective Corporate Parent from a distance can be daunting. They rely on officers and partners to determine and provide the services that children in care need. But there are also things that councillors can do for themselves to demonstrate good corporate parenting skills.
Providing councillors with the skills and insight that they need to be effective corporate parents is a key element in improving outcomes - demanding high levels of service, and always asking is it good enough for my child?
This has led us to develop a short but effective development session for councillors. "Practical Corporate Parenting" - exemplars practice through what we describe as the five modes of a councillor: decision-making, ward, representative, influencers and school governor.
Come May, there will be many new councillors elected to serve their community. But whether you have elections in May or not, it is good practice to develop councillor’s Corporate Parenting skills on a regular basis.
Don’t forget Children in Care - bring Corporate Parenting to the fore of councillors minds - whether new or experienced.
Insight to Impact delivers Short Impact Induction Sessions for councils wishing to improve their impact of Corporate Parenting. We are a leading governance improvement organisation, and have worked with councils and the Local Government Association to help councillors to understand their responsibilities as corporate parents and how they can discharge these effectively. As Director, I have a solid track for improvement and have worked with councils to turn-around governance and scrutiny of children’s services.
Get in touch to find out more