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A Decade of ADCS!

It’s hard to believe, but 2017 marks a decade since the creation of ADCS. It was created when the law changed to create children’s services authorities and the role of the director of social services came to an end. It feels like only yesterday that we started out on this shared journey together. There has been a lot of water under the bridge in that time; a lot that has changed within our world; and problems and challenges that have remained constant.

On the positive side, many things have advanced since 2007. It was ten years ago when the iPhone was launched by Apple – a revolutionary breakthrough in technology. Who could have imagined that our phone would be the one indispensable item that we would carry around with us all day and tuck under our pillows at night? It seems second nature now to always have our phones with us wherever we are connecting us to everyone else (not to mention 24-hour access to emails).

2007 those heady days before the bail out of Northern Rock and the recession of 2008, of which we are all still feeling the effects. Gordon Brown was Prime Minister and the coalition government of 2010 was just a twinkle in the eyes of David Cameron and Nick Clegg. Since that time, we have seen our grants from government diminish. In Nottingham, our revenue grant has halved over the last four years, which has threatened the vital services we provide to all citizens, not just to our children and families.

Arguably, the loss of resources remains the biggest difference, and our biggest challenge, between 2007 and 2017.

I have to be honest I really miss the level of resources that we had in 2007; funding was easily available to trial new initiatives/programmes of work, we had an abundance of youth workers, our children’s centres had bulging toy cupboards and it was easier to recruit and retain social workers. I don’t think we always spent the money in the most sustainable and effective way and knowing what I know now I would have made some different investment decisions. What came in these times of plenty (although maybe I’ve got my ‘rose-tinted’ specs on), was a clear sense of moving forward and making progress and I recall one of my biggest challenges was how to spend all of the ring-fenced grant so we didn’t have to send it back! A far cry from our current collective challenge to ensure we aren’t simply running to stand still.

I have enormous faith in the teams that work tirelessly to ensure we continue to deliver the best quality services possible to our children and families. This is down to the ongoing commitment, drive and dedication of our staff. This is one thing that hasn’t changed in 10 years. If anything, the determination to support our vulnerable families is at its highest level because of the challenges and barriers that we face. I’m extremely proud to be a part of shaping that.

Another constant over the past ten years is rising activity and demand. Whilst there are small signs of diminishing demand for some authorities, overall it remains on an upward trajectory. There is also a wide variation between authorities in the number of children in need, in our care or protected by a child protection plan. Whilst the deep inequalities in our society remain this will always be the case.

On a happier note, there have been significant achievements over the past decade and over the coming months I will be returning to these to celebrate the impact and achievements of ADCS.

It would be remiss of me to look back to 2007 and not offer a huge ‘THANK YOU’ to ADCS for all they have done over the last decade, being the collective voice of professionals in children’s services leadership, the increasingly influential role shaping policy and practice across the wide variety of services available to children, young people and their families and crucially being a supportive network of colleagues when things get tough.

I have absolutely no doubt that we have made enormous progress, albeit in the face of reducing resources and increasing expectations. I’m certainly up for the ongoing challenge and my message to everyone in ADCS is clear: bring on the next decade!

But then, sometimes, when my iPhone battery has died after only three hours or I am struggling to get a signal, I long for my Nokia 3210 … maybe not all progress is for the best!


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