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10 year challenge

At the start of the new decade there is always a lot of reflection on what’s gone before as well as looking to the future. This is particularly relevant given the uncertain times we are living through which I doubt anyone could have foreseen at the beginning of 2010. So, what does the 10 year challenge look like for children’s services? The excellent series of reflections by ADCS past presidents on the 1989 and 2004 Children Acts give a real insight into the changing landscape of children’s services and are really thought provoking.

Reflections on the last decade are bound to highlight frustrations at the unfolding consequences of austerity which have not come as a surprise to anyone in the sector. However, there has also been much to celebrate as we continue to come up with creative solutions to some of the unnecessary challenges put in our way by unhelpful national policy and under resourcing. At a local level we operate as system leaders but nationally the parts of the system we are asked to lead have become fragmented by design. This must change.

There is so much excellence within the sector across all regions and all types of local authorities and often the biggest frustration is we could do so much more if only our hands weren’t tied behind our backs. We know what ‘outstanding’ looks like and how it can be achieved but a lack of resources and in a context of conflicting national policy positions restricts the impact we are able to have.

So, to the future. In recent blogs there has been talk of Christmas presents, wise women and new year’s resolutions. From my perspective I would like the 2020s to be a decade where we embrace the opportunities presented by the power of relationships, strengths-based working and collaboration, all underpinned by proper investment. How our services relate to, and work with, children, young people and their families must continue to evolve. I am also a believer in the importance of partnership working and would like to revisit some of the place-based integration work that has been side-lined in many areas over the past decade.

There is a challenge for us all as the new government takes shape to make the case for the prioritisation of children’s services both in terms of resourcing and new policy direction. Can the silos that exist in Whitehall be broken down with ministers focusing on evidence rather than ideology? How do we shape and influence policy development and decision making so it moves out of a ‘Westminster bubble’ to tackle the real challenges we face? The North East is a long way from Westminster and our context is very different.

There is also an opportunity for us to innovate and share best practice in a structured way building on the establishment of Regional Improvement and Innovation Alliances. In the North East we have made great progress in this area and are starting to see some of the benefits. As a sector we are at our strongest when we work together.

So, what will the 10 year challenge look like in 2030? Hopefully it will be a less turbulent decade and we can reflect on progress towards a fairer and better society.

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