All children in Rotherham are safe

All children in Rotherham are safe.

Sounds pretty sick doesn’t it? These aren’t my words, they are what the “Performance & Quality” team of Rotherham Council said here. Look….



This is a coloured scorecard, green signifies that that particular “theme” is on track and succeeding. That is, that all children in Rotherham are safe.

This was in September 2013, the same month that Professor Jay’s enquiry was commissioned and her subsequent report showed the exact opposite, that Rotherham was a very dangerous place for vulnerable children. Rotherham Council was shown to have failed in every way in fulfilling its safeguarding duty and this  resulted in more than 1,400 children being sexually abused.

By the time a Rotherham Council performance report was claiming that “all children in Rotherham are safe“, their Chief Executive had appeared in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee to answer questions, and apologised to the victims of child sexual exploitation who have been “let down” by its “systemic failure“.

A daming report last week into the child sex exploitation tragedy concluded that Rotherham Council wasn’t “fit for purpose“, and it was put under the control of the Government, the council leader resigned and the Council Cabinet stood down en masse.

If the most scandal hit council in recent memory, that signally failed in every way, can say such lies about its own performance, what does that say about it’s “performance management”? It’s ability to at least tell truth from lies? Not very good perhaps? Not fit for purpose even?

My own organisation is thankfully nothing like Rotherham Council, in any way. Reading the compulsively readable report, I am very glad it isn’t.
However. About 8 years ago, we wanted to copy Rotherham’s performance management framework. Some people had read something about it, and we wanted to copy it. The royal we, not any actual large groupings of people, but enough so that documents were downloaded, Rotherham staff telephoned and spoken with, there may even have been a visit, to see this sterling example in action.

Rotherham’s performance management was mentioned in admiring tones so often, that a counter-joke was developed, by the more sarcastic performance types, whenever the word “Rotherham” was said outloud, people in on the joke would stand and applaude or blow an invisible imaginary trombone. Physical comedy, rather than the outright sneer it deserved.

Although it would be accurate, it wouldn’t be tasteful to say that after 8 years I have been proved “right“, given the things that actually really matter about this whole tragedy in Rotherham. It does show that performance management lied and got away with it.
I think that it shows that if the worst council in the country can tell itself how good it is using performance management then any council is at risk if it uses performance management.

RAG ratings, scorecards, targets and performance reports are dangerous because they don’t work and people think they do. If your job is to protect people or deliver services it is irresponsible and dangerous to use performance management. Just…


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