A virtual inauguration

In normal times, yesterday would have been the day of my Presidential Reception, taking place in the impressive surroundings of the Museum of London. It’s a real shame that the current circumstances meant I wasn’t able to deliver my inaugural speech in person and to see and speak to family, friends and colleagues from across the sector including of course the friendly faces of ADCS past presidents. That said, I felt it important to share with you all the speech I would have made which outlines the Association’s priorities for the year ahead.

I’m sure by now many of you will have watched the short video of me sending a message to you all in lieu of being physically with you. We have to find other ways to connect in extraordinary times! To reiterate my message; ADCS has, at its core, a country that works for, and includes, all children. This is not just an ambition, but a fundamental right of all children in this country and the role of children’s services has probably never been more important than it is now. This brings me to our policy priorities for the coming year which include:

• Maintaining visibility on the need to level up society to make it more inclusive, so that children and young people, particularly the most vulnerable feel a greater sense of belonging

• Maintaining visibility on child poverty and the need to tackle it to ensure children and families receive the right help at the right time

• Working with government and our partners to achieve a national sufficiency strategy for placements for children in care, care leavers and children in need of specialist help and support

• Influencing the scope of and input into the Care Review, when it launches, so that it has a sharply focused and clear aim of improving outcomes for children in care and care leavers.

In my speech, I also spoke about how local authorities and partners will be grappling with many issues as we continue our work around recovery. Issues such as months of lost socialisation and learning due to school closures, a spike in demand for children’s social care, a backlog of new care applications and a rise in the number of children needing to come into care will impact heavily on our children and young people.

The announcement of additional government funding to meet the new challenges we face is welcome but it’s likely more will be needed. And I want to be clear that it is not yet job done for children’s services. Before the pandemic, children’s services were woefully under-funded and stretched to the limit; the current crisis has significantly exacerbated this issue highlighting the need for a sustainable long-term funding settlement. Going forward, ADCS will continue pushing for a three-year sustainable funding settlement for children’s services - I want to see unprecedented levels of investment in our children’s futures, please.

Before I sign off I would also like to say thank you to both Vicky Ford, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, and Jonathan Slater, Permanent Secretary for the Department for Education, for their kind words. I look forward to working with them both over the coming year.

Although we are in unprecedented and hugely challenging times, I am really looking forward to leading the Association for the year ahead and keeping a relentless focus on children and young people. The combined efforts of local authorities, schools and all public services have never been more important.

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