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NCASC 2017 Round-up

The National Children and Adult Services Conference 2017 opened on Wednesday 11 October in Bournemouth with speeches from LGA Chairman, Lord Gary Porter, ADCS President, Alison Michalska and ADASS President, Margaret Wilcox.

In her opening address to conference Alison spoke about some of the shared challenges facing children’s and adult services including managing demand, reducing costs and demographic pressures, as well as tackling domestic abuse, county lines, modern slavery and supporting families with no recourse to public funds, to name but few. Alison went on to talk about systems leadership and sector-led improvement in children’s services emphasising how all councils, irrespective of their Ofsted judgement, have something to share and something to learn. She went on to say that some of the most valuable learning comes from those local authorities who have recently improved from ‘inadequate’ to ‘requires improvement’ or ‘good’.

The full transcript of Alison’s opening address is available, here.

That morning the Association also published a new policy position paper, ‘A country that works for all children’. The paper highlights the issues in current public policy, including the impact of austerity and an increasingly fragmented approach to public services, overlaid with rising levels of child poverty that are cumulatively having a negative impact on children and families.Taken together with the Local Government Association’s seven clear priorities for coordinated action on children’s social care , the paper sets out a clear way forward to improve services and outcomes for children, young people and their families and includes a number of priority action areas for government.

Read the Guardian’s coverage of the ADCS policy paper, here.

Alison’s speech on building a country that works for all children from Wednesday afternoon can be found, here.

Conference delegates were kept busy in sessions that ran throughout the morning and into the afternoon and there was an interesting session focussed on early help and prevention where we heard from President Alison Michalska about Nottingham City Council’s local early help offer. Due to popular demand, Education Question Time returned this year with themes including the role of local authorities in school improvement and in facilitating healthy and critical challenge to schools in their local area, the ever-changing schools landscape and the National Funding Formula. Our very own Kathryn Boulton, ADCS Elected Director and Assistant Director in Derbyshire County Council, spoke passionately from the panel about the commitment of local authorities to safeguarding children and young people, irrespective of whether they attend an academy, maintained school or any other type of educational setting.

On Wednesday afternoon we heard from Sir Martin Narey and Mark Owers who shared emerging themes from their National Fostering Stocktake. These included issues around delegation, the support available to foster carers, recruitment and what children and young people felt they needed from foster placements. Other sessions focussed on relationships and sex education and improving mental health support for children in our care.

On Thursday morning delegates could choose from a variety of sessions on school improvement, creating a resilient children’s service and promoting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.Shortly after Robert Goodwill, the Minister of State for Children and Families, addressed the conference. In his speech, the Minister acknowledged that the skills and expertise to bring about improvement in children’s services lies in the sector itself and announced an expansion of the Partners in Practice programme, and more information about the what works centre for children’s social care. He expressed his commitment to working together with the sector to build a self-improving system for children’s services and announced £20m in funding to support Regional Improvement Alliances.

Read the ADCS response to this announcement here.

Later that morning we heard from former ADCS President, Andrew Webb, and Anthony Douglas, Chief Executive, Cafcass in an interesting session on the rising number of care applications being made to courts. There was a complex range of factors leading to the rising number of children coming into care including risk aversion, new case law, better reviewing as well as a dramatic rise in emotional harm and many families not getting the support they need at the right time, driven by austerity.

On Thursday afternoon Sally Hodges, ADCS West Midlands Regional Chair, led a session on the region’s approach to managing risk and demand in supporting children and families. Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, talked about the vulnerability and stability indexes her team are developing and alerted the audience to a forthcoming report on the experiences of girls in the justice system. Ofsted led a session on the new inspection of local authority children’s services. In this session Helen Lincoln, DCS Essex County Council, and Anne Stoker, Assistant Director Children’s Social Care, Enfield Council shared their experiences of piloting the new inspection and shared their top tips, slides to follow.

The day ended with a series of evening fringe meetings followed by the much anticipated quiz night hosted by the Guardian (which the ADCS staff team won)!

A variety of sessions ran throughout the Friday morning including Future Multi-Agency Safeguarding Arrangements for Children and Transforming Youth Work. In plenary sessions later that morning we heard from Robbie Kent from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) and Dave Hill, Immediate Past President of ADCS, contributed to a session on children’s social care responses to crisis.

So much happens at conference that it’s impossible to include everything in here, however, there has been lots of Twitter activity over the last three days. Search #NCASC17 or see @ADCStweets for a summary of events.

Speeches and presentations from the event will be posted onto the conference website when available. Here’s to what has been, yet again, another enjoyable conference. We hope to see you all again next year for plenty more interesting discussion and debate in Manchester.

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