Fife Council: Bringing Deeper Understanding to Fill Pivotal Role

Head of Children, Families and Criminal Justice

Filling this socially and strategically important leadership role challenged our research capabilities. The role is pivotal in shaping the future of children and families· services in Fife – an area where 1 in 4 children are living in poverty. Understanding and communicating the role’s interesting remit, combined with the criminal justice element, proved essential to successfully filling the role.


  • An ‘ideal’ person brief
  • Extensive deep search tactics
  • Non-traditional sources


Fife Council brought this role to us a few months before the current incumbent was due to retire. We were tasked with identifying individuals with a strong background in leading services within children and families social care and already on the social work register in England or Scotland, or able to register. The role covered a wide remit, including Criminal Justice, and had also been merged with the Chief Social Work Officer role. We felt that this was a good selling point as it added interest to those who were looking to increase their responsibilities.


The role could not be filled internally, and it was a challenging location to recruit for, making search a much more viable option than pure media. Even with sourcing, 35% of individuals who engaged with us were not interested because of the location and a further 30% were not interested due to timings.



Following preliminary research, a briefing with the Executive Director of Education and Children’s Services provided further context and insight into children and family services in Fife. A version of the Directorate Improvement Plan was also shared with us to bring the role and its challenges to life. It was agreed that the ideal candidate would be working at
Head of Service level in a smaller Scottish Local Authority.


We agreed on a project plan during the briefing. Timebound goals including benchmarking and work in progress updates were to be sent. Our search encompassed telephone, Linked In, referrals, CV databases and deep web searching.


By using an intensive search for council documentation, and examining historical freedom of information requests, we were able to identify names of individuals who were otherwise absent from traditional sources – including their own council website.


Fife Council appointed an Acting Head of Service from a smaller Scottish local authority- as per their “ideal person” brief. In the candidate’s own words, she was delighted
to be offered the role and excited to be joining Fife Council. She also thanked us for contacting her as she was not looking for a new role and would have over looked this opportunity.

I was impressed with the extent of the knowledge of what Fife was looking for and the ability from our conversations to absolutely understand what type of person we wished to recruit. The process most definitely found us candidates who would not have otherwise applied and although there was still a small number of applicants we were able to appoint a suitable candidate to the post. This was my first time in using this service and would consider it for future senior appointments.