05 May WLZ shared values
By Danny Kruger, WLZ Chief Executive
Our vision is that young people arrive in adulthood safe, healthy and happy. This ambition demands a consistent approach among all the people and organisations working with the child or young person.
We explain below our approach to supporting children and young people directly; our approach to working together, as a partnership of professionals with a shared vision; and our approach to the staff we employ. These principles are summarised, for signature by our partners, here.
The third person plural (‘we’, ‘our’) refers to the whole partnership – the WLZ backbone team, the WLZ Link Workers, the anchors they work in, and the partners who deliver support. This is the approach we all take to our work.
Our approach to supporting children and young people
We have high expectations of all children and young people: we expect the best of them and for them. This means we are demanding and supportive: we push the child or young person hard and never make excuses for underperformance, but we don’t give up on them when they fail, or relegate them to a lower tier of ambition – we work harder to provide more support. We neither facilitate failure (‘he can’t be expected to do better’) nor punish it (‘she doesn’t deserve more help’), and we celebrate success. This is reflected in the behaviour policies that apply to WLZ children and young people, which are agreed with anchors and partners before any support programme starts.
We are strengths-based: we focus on the good things in children and young people’s lives, not just on the areas where they need to improve. This means we look for their passions and talents and find ways to give them expression. As well as addressing needs and challenges, we seek to maximise the positive ‘assets’ in their lives – the relationships, opportunities and other resources in their families and communities. We want children and young people to grow up thinking about the things they have or can have, and about what they’re good at – not all the things they currently don’t have or can’t do. This is the best way to stimulate a habit of high expectation.
We have a strong sense of urgency. We cannot wait for the perfect government policy or economic conditions. We need to act now to support children and young people – even those older youth who have been let down for many years; it is never too late but it is vital to work quickly. This means we make use of what is available, work flexibly to overcome obstacles as they appear, and go the extra mile. This habit of urgency and expediency is the best possible basis for the long-term strategic influence we hope to have over the evolution of children’s and youth services in London: being adaptive now in a less-than-ideal system means we can better help shape the system of the future.
Our approach to working with each other
We take a ‘one-team’ approach. The professionals and organisations working with children and young people represent some of the greatest assets in a child or young person’s life, with great capacity even in the current spending climate. But to achieve their potential these separate agents need to be much more collaborative. We need to work – from the perspective of the child or young person – as a single team, with constant shared learning. This is the only way to deliver the long-term, consistent, high-quality engagement that children and young people need.
We commit sufficient time and resources to the work of the WLZ partnership, with ‘whole-organisation’ engagement with the model, from chief executive or headteacher to frontline or classroom workers.
We respect our relationships with the professionals and organisations we work with. This means recognising the pressures others are under and doing our best to make things work for them; ensuring communication is open and easy (calls and emails are replied to promptly), and deadlines are met. We do not cast blame and badmouth our colleagues or other organisations to third parties. But we do have high expectations of our partners and call out colleagues who fall short of the principles outlined here.
We are honest and transparent about the challenges we face, and the occasions when we fail. This is vital to the overall success of our work. We encourage each other to share mistakes honestly to help everyone improve their practice. Data is embedded in the heart of all monitoring and performance management, and is submitted quickly and clearly.
Our approach to staff
We recruit, train and try to keep great people. The positive practices listed above – towards children and young people and towards the other professionals in the partnership – depend, simply, on having staff with exceptional levels of energy, personal commitment, and skill. Therefore the same expectations we have of children and young people – expecting the best of them and for them – we have of our colleagues. We work deliberately to enhance the professionalism and ability of our workforce, and do not make excuses for poor performance. People working with children and young people do some of the hardest jobs there are, and deserve better pay and public recognition than they often get. But most of all children and young people deserve the best possible support.