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Tue, 09 Jul 24 10:00

A role like no other

I find myself writing this blog at a strange time – two days before I am due to leave Northumberland County Council to take up the Director of Children’s Services (DCS) role in Newcastle City Council. Consequently, I am using the opportunity to reflect on the role of the DCS and the significant impact that this critical role can have on the outcomes for children.

This past year has seen some challenges and changes for the sector (and I don’t mean Covid) and the uncertainty of the future direction of children’s services (schools white paper and SEND and AP green paper) and the odd adverse media stories which are never helpful. Just this week I was surprised to see the former Children’s Commissioner on breakfast TV advising the public to contact the NSPCC if they have concerns about a child rather than children’s services as they are more likely to get a response. Local authorities and children’s services are under a lot of pressure but keeping children and young people safe is always top of our to do lists.

Having never previously had a desire to be a DCS, and becoming one quite by accident, the enormity of the responsibility was well understood and accepted by me. No matter what background you bring to the DCS role - social care, education or some other career path - the learning curve is always steep.

I am sure most of you will have heard the analogy of a DCS being likened to a football manager, and I can see the similarity of winning/losing the FA Cup and achieving a positive/negative Ofsted outcome. But being ultimately responsible for the outcomes for thousands of children is not all about awards and Ofsted. As you all know, children’s services is the most regulated and risky of local authority services, (although receives slightly fewer complaints than potholes and fly tipping) with recruitment and retention pressures, increased demand of services, reduced budgets, ever changing guidance, legislation and process.

So, with all of the above, why would I voluntarily wish to change one DCS role for another in a different authority? Similar pressures, issues and demands but just with a different demographic. Despite this, I think that the DCS role can be one of the most rewarding jobs on offer. I have been grateful for the wide experience and opportunities I have had in my current dual role of DCS / DASS and Deputy Chief Executive (and more weirdly managing the Fire Service), but I am looking forward to focusing on one area - one huge area - and absolutely hoping to help make a difference to children’s lives as a Director of Children’s Services.

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