Client: Ealing Social Services Department
Campaign: ’Working to be the best’
PR Team: In-house
Timescale: June 1998 - ongoing
In June 1998 services for children in the care of Ealing Social
Services, came under attack from the Department of Health’s Social
Services Inspectorate (SSI). Children were not considered safe in its
care and the department drew criticism from many areas. The SSI pointed
out that the department had a lack of permanent staff, and it had failed
to review childcare cases.
The department was one of the first in the country to be put on ’special
measures’. This meant that Ealing had to work under the close
supervision of the SSI and be seen to rectify its areas of
To come off ’special measures’ as soon as possible by addressing the
issues raised by the SSI. To improve council department management
systems and services provided for children and young people in its care,
as well as changing the organisation’s culture.
Strategy and Plan
The communication strategy needed to target Ealing Social Services
employees, the media and the young people in the department’s care.
It adopted the strap-line ’Working to be the best’ and a new director of
social services, Professor Norman Tutt, was appointed.
Staff at Ealing Social Services were sent newsletters, involved in
council briefings, discussion groups and lunchtime forums. The latter
gave employees the opportunity to speak on a one-to-one basis with the
department’s director and chief executive. Discussions centred on how
staff felt services could be improved. When each target set by the SSI
was reached, celebratory events were held to boost staff confidence.
At each stage of the campaign, the local and national media were
informed of improvements. This helped Ealing to start a recruitment
drive for full-time staff, as it started to be portrayed as a council
department that was making positive changes to its culture.
In September 1998 a survey was conducted by young people in care to
gauge their opinion of Ealing’s youth services.
In the summer of 1999 Ealing Social Services co-ordinated another
Again, the questions were asked and answered by those in care. They were
encouraged to reveal their experiences and what they though of Ealing as
a ’corporate parent’. The survey revealed that children wanted access to
computers, to have somewhere to meet and to be able to talk to and
influence councillors. Therefore Ealing ensured that all council
committees that cover children’s social services included the
involvement of a young people’s representative; introduced measures to
provide computer access; and promised those in care a drop-in
Measurement and Evaluation
In March this year Ealing Social Services was the first council to come
off special measures. It now ensures that all children have care
workers, that the department has a full staff and that all childcare
cases are reviewed. The council has been successful in overhauling its
management and creating a culture that acknowledges achievement.
Communications were at the core of the campaign. The council has managed
to keep up the momentum since coming off special measures.
In mid-May Ealing opened a ’drop-in’ centre for young people leaving
care. It offers a range of services for 15- to 21-year-olds, including
advice on education, housing, health information, careers advice,
further education, employment as well as practical skills, such as
cooking, doing your own washing, changing a plug and opening a bank
The centre was officially opened by health minister John Hutton who also
presented the first of 35 computers to Ealing’s Children in Care. The
drop-in centre also received positive coverage in the local and national