President’s address at ADCS annual conference 2018

Speaking to an assembled group of senior leaders in children and young people services, the Secretary of State for Education and Children’s Minister at the Midland Hotel, Manchester Stuart Gallimore, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), today said:

On the role of local authorities with schools

“The effective removal of local government from education management has skewed policy development. The publicly accountable local authority, with its historic and democratic legitimacy, and its effective record as a school improvement partner has been side-lined, this is not good for children or their families. Instead the DfE now seeks to perform that traditional local education authority function itself, centrally, for several thousand academies and free schools. There must always be oversight, not just because of the spending of public money, but because no school should become unresponsive to its community. Schools are the heart of their communities, and they must remain accountable to them.”

On children’s health

“The total budget for the NHS in England is approximately £100 billion. What proportion of that £100 billion do you think is spent on children’s healthcare? You don’t know? Well, neither does the NHS; neither does the IFS – but their best guess is about £9 billion – so, 9% of the total budget. That doesn’t seem like the right apportionment to me, because addressing children’s health needs early, particularly their mental and emotional health, equals early help to break the generational cycles of adult disadvantage…I’d like to strongly encourage the DfE to open discussions with the Department of Health & Social Care about transferring some of the NHS’s budget for children’s community healthcare to local authorities – I reckon we could do a damn good job of it – and government would be better sighted on how the money was being spent. There’s a precedent we can look to – the return of public health funding and responsibilities to local authorities. This was a good thing, after all, public health is early help on a grand scale.”

On child poverty

“Recent studies have shown the cognitive damage that living in poverty does to children. The harmful effects become more severe when their families remain in poverty for longer periods. Data from the Millennium Cohort Study demonstrates that family income is a powerful determinant of children’s level of cognitive development…What does this mean? It means that family background trumps ‘natural ability’. Differences in cognitive development and intelligence are the consequence of inequality…A sobering thought; and so is this – by 2022, the IFS predicts there will be 5.2 million children living in poverty. We are seeing families at our front doors or in the MASH that we have had no previous knowledge of, or engagement with. There are foodbanks up and down the land helping working families to survive and whilst I salute their work it really is a stain on our society that they need to. There are new glass ceilings in place for young people today, in addition to the old glass ceilings that never were quite shattered. That feels like a burning social injustice and it’s our job colleagues to help children and young people through that. Reducing child poverty is justified not only from a social justice perspective, but from a cost-benefit perspective as well. For central government, investing in strategies that reduce childhood poverty is both smart and efficient economic policy as well as the right thing to do. In the meantime, it’s our job in local government to do all we can to reduce the impact of poverty on children. This necessitates a wide lens view of social policy, an integrated approach that seeks to ameliorate the impacts of poor housing, family poverty, insecure work, social isolation and mental ill-health. If that’s not a public health challenge for the 21st century I don’t know what is.”

On funding

“Conference, be very clear – there is not enough money in the system, full stop. There is simply no fat left to trim, instead authorities up and down the country have found themselves having to cut back on early help services which makes no financial sense. The frankly bonkers notion that the future of local government funding might be fairer if more of it was generated through the retention of business rates or new homes bonus will unequivocally not be in the best interests of children and will increase the disparity in local and regional funding.”

On a workforce fit for a country that works for all children

“I warmly welcomed the DfE’s focus on social work reform…I’d like to see us focusing next on the wider children’s workforce… A month before the NHS act came into effect Bevan opened a speech with the simple statement ‘nurses are the most important part of the service’, well for us it is our front-line staff whatever their title and background. Social workers, key workers, early help practitioners, youth workers, our unsung residential workers, and the health visitors I mentioned earlier. It is the quality of the relationships they forge that make the difference. Their emotional wellbeing is key if they are to be effective as they bear the brunt of the public service reductions.”

The full speech can be found on the ADCS website.

ENDS



Related Articles