SE DCS Peer Challenge 2018

2017 saw a pilot involving a three host authorities (Brighton and Hove; Portsmouth and Southampton). Their feedback has helped improve the process for 2018:

SE DCS Peer Challenge 2018 MOU

SE DCS Peer Challenge 2018 Self-assessment Template

The aims

The SE DCS peer challenge differs from the topical peer challenge process that has been running across the SE in the following ways: 

  • The overall aim is to allow the DCS, together with CEx and Lead Member, to improve understanding of how leadership and management processes impact on service quality and service improvement
  • It starts with a summary self-assessment and a data analysis provided by the SESLIP team
  • The self-assessment is subject to a challenge dialogue between host, visitor and observer DCS’s . An area is chosen as a focus for subsequent fieldwork.
  • The peer challenge team visit focuses both on developing insights which will secure operational improvement, and also on seeking insights to the way leadership and management might change to better support service delivery with improved outcomes
  • Coproduction is built into the review in that solutions are always developed together at the end of the peer challenge process. Coproduction can also be embedded into the challenge if the host authority wishes to put up its own small team to join the peer challenge team

The programme will promote:

  • Mutual respect, openness and honesty
  • Non-judgemental feedback
  • The need to diagnose and understand why things are like they are
  • A practical focus on how outcomes for young people could be improved

We believe in:

Securing improvement work that is focused on galvanising children’s services to achieve the best possible outcomes for children and young people. In particular this will focus on the need to avoid service failures, improve performance in relation to the more intractable challenges and sustain progress during a period of significant economic restraint.

Building on existing capability in children’s services and associated corporate support, and, where appropriate, with partners to diagnose improvement challenges, identify risks to performance and commission effective, evidence based and value for money solutions.

Systematically sharing knowledge about what works across the sector and ensuring that there is effective brokerage of next-practice interventions.

Contributing to the development and implementation of policies designed to improve the lives of children.

Respecting the collective duty of care for the region’s leaders of children’s services

SE DCS Peer Challenge 2019 

More details will be provided shortly.

Governance & Reports

2018 entries in Bold are confirmed; entries in italics are provisional

Triad Host Visitor Observer Challenge Session Date Fieldwork Date
1 Oxfordshire  Milton Keynes Portsmouth  February 2018 23 & 24 July 2018
2 Wokingham Southampton East Sussex Early October December 2018 tbc
3 Hampshire Windsor and Maidenhead Brighton and Hove 7 September 8 & 9 November 2018 

How it works

The SE DCS peer challenge has the following components:

  • a self-assessment by the host authority. Each host local authority completes this. They may use their own format but, if desired, a proforma can be found under tools and templates
  • a review of benchmarking data by the SESLIP team, which is sent to each authority one month before the challenge session
  • orientation for the triads taking part
  • a challenge session in DCS triads to establish lines of enquiry/ an area of focus using the Peer Challenge Planner
  • a field-work visit to validate the lines of enquiry. This takes place over two days.  The first day is spent in interviews with key stakeholders identified by the triads.  The second day consists of three elements:
    • the peer challenge team spend the morning developing hypothesis and insights about what is happening in the interface between the service and its leadership.
    • Just before lunch, a presentation is given to the host authority on the hypothesis and insights identified
    • After lunch, there is a facilitated workshop which takes place in the afternoon of the second day to reflect on the presentation and develop some ideas on recommendation and possible solutions
  • A follow up visit in 4 months’ time to review progress on the chosen actions

A detailed handbook describing the process is avaiable under Tools, templates and useful links on this page below.  There are also a range of other templates here to assist with the review

Anna Wright is available for discussion of any aspect of the programme.


The activity covered by the programme includes:

  • an annual self-assessment
  • a review of benchmarking data
  • a process of peer challenge in DCS/Trust CEx-triads to establish lines of enquiry
  • a field-work visit to validate the lines of enquiry
  • a report back to the host authority
  • an annual summit to review improvement priorities across the region and shape the work programme for the following year

2018 Illustrative timetable (for guidance only) 






Month 1/2

Self-assessment completed

Host DCS/Trust CEx


Data profile prepared

SESLIP with host staff


Month 2/3

Triad-peer challenge session

DCS/Trust CExs


Month 4/5/6

Peer challenge field work visits

Host DCS/Trust CEx and visiting team


Month 6/7

Peer Challenge reports produced

Visiting DCS/Trust CEx