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Let's choose hope and kindness

I have been a Social worker for 35 years and it is in our nature to be optimistic, although we sometimes do a good job of hiding it. The start of the New Year is often a time of reflection and renewal and I am sure many of us, particularly those with young children, will have seen a portrayal of the nativity story with the archetypal homeless family relying on the kindness of strangers, living in temporary accommodation, before fleeing for their lives as refugees (does any of that sound familiar?) but it was the arrival of the three wise men and their gifts that struck me and left me wondering what gifts we as an Association would want to bring at the start of a New Year.

If we are to embrace hope rather than hopelessness, the first gift needs to be simply each other. Let’s extend the gift of generosity and kindness, whether it’s the phone call to someone who is struggling, or a sector led offer to a neighbour, never forgetting that our friends tell it how it is rather then how we might want it to be. If we don’t look after ourselves and each other we are not in a position to help those in need. It would also be great to see that kindness extended to inform both central and local government policy decisions as well as the delivery of the services we are responsible for.

The second gift is that of our voice, whether that is speaking up for children in our local area or through the work of the Association in speaking truth to the powerful (and boy have we had a President in our Rachel who has done just that!) It’s essential that we highlight inequalities in our communities but at the same time partnering with others inside and outside government to come up with solutions. The biblical story might have three wise men but we have our very own three wise women in ADCS President Rachel Dickinson, Vice President Jenny Coles and new Vice President elect Charlotte Ramsden. Along with the ADCS Council of Reference and the six Policy Committees they will have a key role in working with the new government over the next five years to make sure our voice is heard for all children and families.

Finally, we need our chest of gold. A fair funding settlement for children is long overdue if we are to see the disadvantage gap reduced and removed. Much needed stability returned to families in all its forms, secure tenancies and an end to food poverty would be a good place to start. But why not go further and provide much needed support to the communities that families live in, rebuild our early help offer and address issues of youth violence and contextual safeguarding? There is so much to do but it is a privilege to be a director of children’s services and have a role that means we can make a real contribution in championing hope and kindness at the start of a New Year.

Unfortunately, stories of children and families struggling with poverty over the festive period have become all too common. As some of you know, I live in a fairly affluent south coast cathedral town, yet our local food bank has seen a 33% increase in requests for help over the last six months and on the night of the rough sleeper census 31 people were recorded as homeless. This is a relatively small number compared to many other places, but you then scale this up nationally based on Shelter’s recent research and 135,000 children will have been homeless or living in temporary accommodation on Christmas day, a 12-year high. When presented with these figures it is easy to be overwhelmed by a feeling of hopelessness that we will never achieve A country that works for all children, however, we will all know of individual stories of children and families that swim against the tide because of the services we provide as well as the tireless work of community groups, faith groups and concerned individuals.

Am I optimistic or pessimistic of progress? The answer is optimistic of course, I’m a Liverpool fan and this is our year…

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