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All the noise is coming from the shallow end…

For the umpteenth time in the last few months I have read articles by commentators on the future of children’s services that I would describe as coming from the ‘shallow end’. Swimming for leisure formed a significant part of my childhood experience and queuing for the Bovril machine afterwards, only half dried and freezing cold, having failed to heed my mum’s warnings about ‘catching your death of cold’, was considered a treat.

The thing about the kids who were in the shallow end was they were barely able to do the ‘doggy paddle’ and too afraid to wander into the depths of the mid pool, let alone the 15 foot deep end or the high diving boards beyond – they were also very noisy!

So where are the serious swimmers hanging out? Where is the ‘deep end’ debate about children’s services vision, direction and policy? Well for starters in ADCS!

ADCS through our national policy committees and regional networks brings together the knowledge, expertise and local experiences of colleagues across the country and offers practical and professional advice to ministers and policy makers to secure better outcomes for children, young people and families. We also produce many key policy papers and this year’s theme ‘a country that works for all children’ sets out a compelling vision from which will flow many policy discussions and debates, but how do we broaden, deepen and lead the debates that are key, with those working within children’s services as well as broader policy makers? To have credibility this must include front-line managers and practitioners.

In my mind there are a suite of key issues that warrant significant debate at all levels:

  • How do we take seriously the business of family support and resilience and what implications that has for safeguarding services and services for children in care and children in need?
  • What does that mean for our important dialogue with government about resources in children’s services?
  • How do schools and other education services sit at the heart of prevention and safeguarding practice?
  • How do the current reforms in the health service assist rather than detract from good policy and best practice?
  • SEND services are not where they need to be, how can we establish a national agenda for excellence that will stick?
  • How can we massively improve the experience for all children and young people in care (yes, with LOVE included as part of the deal)?
  • How can we establish a comprehensive sector-led children’s services improvement regime, that compliments the Ofsted inspection process?
  • How can we put children, young people and families at the centre of all we do?
  • How do we train, support and maintain a workforce of consistently high calibre?

We are at a critical moment in terms of the future direction for children’s services, it is incumbent upon directors of children’ services to lead and shape the debate, we are the serious players – well into the ‘deep end’ of the realities of planning, policy and delivery. We must get onto the front foot, be deeply thoughtful, reflective, inclusive and influential in our approach.

We must not let the voices from the shallow end dominate.

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