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Tue, 09 Jul 24 10:00

My Last ADCS Blog

This is my last ADCS blog as I’m retiring today!

So I feel I’m allowed to reflect, and even be a little sentimental, so I hope you will indulge me.

It has been a huge privilege to occupy the roles of Vice President and President for ADCS. Honestly the greatest honour of my career.

You get to work with fantastic people, not just in the Association but also across government and partners in the wider system. And to have the opportunity to join forces with so many passionate and committed people is inspiring and truly humbling.

The last year has been eventful, with the unexpected outcome from the general election, the Kids Company debacle and the crisis in Kent, with the arrival of unprecedented numbers of unaccompanied asylum seeking children in Dover, which placed unimaginable pressure on their children’s services in July and August. And then there was a new policy packed autumn with accelerated and ambitious programmes for both social work and school reform kicking in more boldly than we could have imagined.

But as I reflect this week, I’m reminded about the real impact on people’s lives of the policy work that we do.

Two of my passions have been care leavers, Staying Put in particular and children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Two things I have recently been involved in Kirklees have brought this to life for me.

I have been visiting children’s homes and hearing about the impact of the Pillars of Parenting approach we have taken in our work in children’s residential care. This has included equipping staff to understand attachment and loss, whilst developing techniques for dealing with the difficult behaviour this can cause and is transforming our ability to care for distressed young people.

Also, reviewing our out of district placements has reminded me about how many of the complex needs of children of all ages derive from their disrupted and abusive early childhood experiences.

In my national role I attended the Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Oversight Board which led to my reflection on who is best placed to help these young people as part of implementing Future in Mind. There will be debate about whether more specialist professional help is needed or whether we should be equipping families and carers to help children overcome trauma.

And of course amongst the children in residential care and out of district placements there are many who are looking ahead to independence.

Many are not ready to leave care yet; they are playing catch up with emotional development, delayed by their difficult childhoods. They are overcoming the legacy of abuse which has left them unable to trust people and to build relationships and many are still struggling with controlling their behaviour. It’s great that some are now able to stay for longer with foster carers, buying them time to get onto a better footing and for the fortunate, the prospect of belonging to an extended foster family who will support them with their transition into adulthood.

But for too many young people in residential care the chances are more limited and the pressure to move to independence early too great.

So this is my piece of unfinished business. I know there is willingness in government to improve support for care leavers and innovative approaches such as the “No Wrong Door” approach in North Yorkshire who are leading the way forward.

My parting wish is that we see change soon and that we raise the bar to support all care leavers.

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