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ADCS President’s Opening Address National Children and Adult...

ADCS President’s Opening Address National Children and Adult Services Conference

On Wednesday 14th October 2015, Alison O’Sullivan, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) gave her opening address at the National Children and Adult Services (NCAS) conference in Bournemouth.

On leaders in the children’s sector

“We’re innovators, creative problem-solvers and most of all, we are driven by our commitment to continuously improve the lives of the citizens we are elected or employed to serve.”

On reductions to funding

“We know that local elected members across the country have protected spending in children’s services as well as adults. But we know that this has already been at a heavy cost in terms of reducing other services. There is a limit to how much more can be done. The next round of reductions will run the risk that in many places we will not be able to meet core requirements.”

On innovation in children’s services

“It’s undoubtedly the case that significant reduction in public spending has driven the need to innovate and collaborate across public agencies at a pace we have never seen before. And in this hot house we’re seeing experimentation and radically different ideas emerging including different ways of providing services and different ways of working. But in embracing the new we must not discard the lessons from experience.”

On sector-led improvement

“This is a sector owning responsibility for the quality of what we do and driven to find ways of achieving better outcomes for local children and families about whom we care so passionately. This is what we are about. This is what we do.”

On social work reform

“Innovative approaches developed through the step up and front-line initiatives have introduced fresh momentum to the development of high-quality initial social work training. But we must make sure that we don’t create a two tier training system and we must keep an overview of the market for initial training to ensure we manage the supply of high quality social work staff in future. We must not inadvertently destabilise the system we are aiming to strengthen.”

On schools

“There has been a presumption in government that local authorities are reluctant to collaborate with the academy system in order to make sensible local arrangements to improve the standards in all schools. But here an important opportunity could be missed to make the most of existing local infrastructures and expertise, instead of implementing duplicate structures to oversee the improvement of coasting and failing academies and free schools.”

On OFSTED and the Single Inspection Framework (SIF)

“Our stance on the Single Inspection Framework together with the LGA and SOLACE is well understood. And yet OFSTED and government are determined to complete the cycle of this dysfunctional process which will inevitably carry on generating the kind of headlines over the next 18 months, that we have already seen: that two thirds of local authorities are failing in their responsibilities towards children. This is not only irresponsible its plain wrong. Ofsted is worried that later someone will say that they got it wrong and therefore default to defensive inspection. Defensive inspection is just as dangerous as defensive frontline practice.”

On Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs)

“Today, ADCS will publish a policy position paper on LSCBs. We’ve thought long and hard as to whether there’s a radical alternative to the LSCB. There isn’t in our view. If we didn’t have them, we’d end up inventing something similar. But, their role needs to be clearly focussed and implemented with confidence in order to fulfil the principal statutory objective of LSCBs – ensuring that work to protect children is properly co-ordinated and effective. Widening the preventative remit of LSCBs, detracts from the core function. Whilst the LSCB must be the fulcrum where agencies are held to account for their safeguarding responsibilities, they may not necessarily be best placed to fulfil the wider preventative work.”

Read the full policy position paper on LSCBs here.

Read the full President’s address here.


The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) Ltd is the professional leadership association for Directors of Children’s Services and their senior management teams in England.

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