A conference like no other

The pandemic continues to alter many aspects of our home and working lives. As if to further underline this point, the spiritual home of the National Children and Adult Services Conference (NCASC) in the north, Manchester Central, recently reopened as the region’s Nightingale Hospital and the country re-entered lockdown in the middle of the event. So, this week one of the biggest events in the local government calendar was held wholly online for the first time ever.

As usual, this year’s event opened on Wednesday with speeches from ADASS President James Bullion, our very own Jenny Coles, and LGA Chairman Councillor James Jamieson. Jenny’s abridged speech touched on the pandemic and the stark inequalities it has laid bare, on the urgent need to act on child poverty and re-stated the case for renewed investment in children’s services and indeed in children’s futures.

As in previous years there were ministerial speeches and the usual mix of topical, cross-cutting plenary sessions on equalities and diversity, on mental health and on the role of local government in responding to the pandemic, plus a series of policy workshops. Covid-19 was, of course, a running theme across the three days. For the delegates from children’s services, the focus was on safeguarding, all important funding, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, education, inspection and the much-anticipated care review. Hertfordshire’s children in care council made a short video which was shown in the care review session. In it they shared their priorities for leaders, including honesty, kindness, fairness and love and asked social workers to be proud about their work. Yusuf Paul McCormack, a care experienced person and a member of Our Care, Our Say, provided delegates with real food for thought in his input about the role of ‘big people’ in the lives of children in care.

So, although there was no Guardian charity quiz (the team from LB Havering retain the title for another year!), no exhibition and no chance meetings between old friends and colleagues in the queue for lunch, there were still plenty of opportunities to share and learn and so much to be proud of. NACSC offered many of the presenters, including ministers, the Chief Social Worker for Children and Families and HM Chief Inspector, the opportunity to pay tribute to the tremendous efforts and work of our frontline staff in supporting children, families and communities through the pandemic.

Let’s hope we can all be together again in 2021 in Bournemouth, until then, stay safe out there.

From, the ADCS staff team.

Speeches and presentations from the event will be posted onto the conference website and shared via the ADCS bulletin when available. The full transcript of Jenny’s speech is on the ADCS website alongside the press release.

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