NCAS Conference 2019 roundup

The National Children and Adult Services Conference 2019 opened on Wednesday 20 November in Bournemouth with speeches from ADCS President Rachel Dickinson, ADASS President Julie Ogley and LGA Chairman Councillor James Jamieson.

Rachel’s powerful speech touched on many of the challenges facing children, their families and the services they rely on today, 30 years on from the Children Act 1989. She urged the next government, whoever it might be, to tackle the shameful levels of child poverty in this country. On funding, she highlighted the need for central government to invest sustainably, substantially and bravely in children’s services; we need a long-term funding settlement that transcends parliamentary cycles and general election rhetoric. And we need to move away from the current piecemeal approach to funding, she said. Small, ad hoc, short-term pots of funding from central government in response to single issues does not help all children in all local areas. Rachel then spoke about children’s mental health and wellbeing and the ADCS position paper A health care system that works for all children, published this Thursday. The paper calls for a re-setting of the role of health in relation to children and young people and the services provided to them and a Health & Wellbeing Board approach at a national level, amongst other things. Rachel also shared some findings from the latest elective home education (EHE) survey (also published this week). The survey showed that the number of children who are home educated is continuing to rise as well as the proportion of EHE children known to children’s social care. On support for care leavers, Rachel urged councils who have not already exempted their care leavers from paying council tax until age 25 to give this some thought when setting budgets locally. Other themes in Rachel’s speech included: the need for an inclusive education system and the level of profit being generated by some companies from the care of vulnerable children.

The full transcript of Rachel’s speech can be read here and the link to the press release can be found here.

There were a range of sessions on offer on Wednesday. In the morning, we heard from Caroline Coady from the NCB and Nicky Pace who is the Independent Scrutineer at Hertfordshire’s Safeguarding Children’s Partnership to speak about the new multiagency safeguarding arrangements in local areas. Leading into the afternoon, there was a session on embedding a whole system approach to domestic abuse. We heard a powerful personal account of a family’s experience of violence, fear and confrontation in the home. Delegates were also able to attend an engaging workshop on a staff-led initiative to consider wellbeing in the workplace from Central Bedfordshire Council.

In the afternoon, Steve Crocker and Steph How from Hampshire County Council led a very informative session on their journey to transform children’s social care in Hampshire before delegates chose from the final workshops of the day on improving outcomes for vulnerable children, embedding a whole school academic resilience approach or had the chance to hear from the new regulator Social Work England.

On Thursday, there were more workshops including an engaging session on adopted children’s experience of school and another on the importance of the early years on improving social mobility. Delegates also had the opportunity to discuss the impact of the Troubled Families programme. Later that morning there was a particularly popular sub-plenary session on tackling county lines and serious violent crime with input from ADCS Vice President Jenny Coles and Dez Holmes, Director of Research in Practice.

In the afternoon, Charlotte Ramsden, Chair of the Health, Care & Additional Needs Policy Committee presented on the challenges and opportunities surrounding Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) in a session where we also heard from Tony McArdle, Chair of the SEND Leadership Board and one of the independent advisors to the SEND review. For the final session of the day delegates were involved in an interactive session on re-imagining services in a country that works for all children with input from Vice President Jenny Coles and Matt Dunkley, Chair of the Resources & Sustainability Policy Committee.

To mark the 30th anniversary of the Children Act 1989 and the 15th anniversary of the Children Act 2004, ADCS has been publishing the reflections of our past, current and vice presidents on our website. A composite of all 14 reflections was published on the ADCS website which you can find here and the Guardian also published a longer piece on Rachel Dickinson’s reflections during the conference. To read the Guardian article follow the link here.

The final morning of the conference brought more fascinating sessions including a session from Suffolk Council who came to talk about on how they used the power of communities to support care leavers through the use of mentors. Finally, the conference was brought to a close with an important discussion on the role of local government in addressing children and young people’s mental health problems.

There was lots of Twitter activity over the last three days. Search #NCAS19 or @ADCStweets for a summary of events.

Speeches and presentations from the event will be posted onto the conference website and shared via the ADCS bulletin when available. It’s been another enjoyable and eventful conference and we hope to see you all again next year for plenty more interesting discussion and debate in Manchester.

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