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Celebrating diversity and making positive change

October marks Black History Month, where countries across the world stop and take the time to recognise and celebrate the considerable achievements and contributions of Black people throughout our history and right up to the present day. For those of us in local authority children’s services, it is an opportune time to reflect on the diversity of our own workforce, to celebrate progress and consider how to drive forward change in the future. As leaders of children’s services we are rightly challenged on how representative we are of the communities we serve and whilst we are seeing some progress it is too little and too slow.

I was keen to make this a priority focus for ADCS during my presidential year and work has been taking place to understand what more can be done to ensure we are a diverse and inclusive Association. A Working Group has been set up to bring clarity to ADCS’s role in this space by identifying where partners and individual ADCS members may be best placed to help move this agenda forward in children’s services. This will lead to a set of tangible actions we can take forward as an association to support change. We’re also in discussions with the LGA and ADASS too to learn, share and challenge each other in this regard.

However, in order to better understand how representative we are, it is vital that we know the current position. ADCS is undertaking a voluntary survey of all of its members, not only to better understand ourselves but also to support discussion around succession planning and workforce development both at the national and local level. We have been undertaking this survey since 2022 and have received a positive response rate so far, but we must keep building this picture so that we can have the right discussions. I strongly encourage all ADCS members to complete the short survey you will have recently received to give us as accurate a picture as possible of the level of diversity within our current membership. Of course, I know that data isn’t going to solve enduring societal inequalities but it can be a lever to open up new and challenging conversations.

We know that we have a long way to go in making local authority children’s services more diverse environments that properly reflect the communities we support and work with. It is also important for children and young people to see that they too can aspire to a career in children’s services by seeing themselves reflected in the professionals who have such an important impact on their lives. The sector has been alive to these challenges in recent years and there is a lot of positive work taking place across different local authorities and regions to attract a more diverse workforce and support staff from global majority backgrounds to reach more senior positions.

At the national level, The Staff College now hosts a BALI Network that brings together people who have completed the BALI programme to share their experiences and support each other and also invites allies to join, help, advocate and support the cause. We have also seen the development of the Workforce Race Equality Standard for social care. While it was disappointing to see that the government will no longer fund this important piece of work, it is incredibly positive that Skills for Care will continue to deliver its roll-out. These developments show that we are heading in the right direction but we must now capitalise on this momentum.

As leaders in children’s services, we are at our strongest when we harness and empower the full range of talents across our sector. I’m now half way through my presidential year and I hope the work undertaken this year will provide a springboard to accelerate progress. It requires our collective focus and commitment if we are to achieve meaningful change and it is incumbent on us as sector leaders to take responsibility for making that change.

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