NCASC 2023

This week colleagues from across both children’s and adult services came together in Bournemouth for the 2023 National Children and Adult Services Conference. A packed programme filled the three days with a mix of plenaries and workshops, including keynote speeches from David Johnston MP, Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing; Helen Hayes MP, Shadow Minister for Children and Early Years; and Amanda Spielman, HMCI of Ofsted.

The conference opened with keynote speeches from Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the Community Wellbeing Board, LGA; Cllr Louise Gittins, Chair of the Children and Young People Board, LGA; Beverley Tarka, ADASS President, and John Pearce, ADCS President.

In John Pearce’s speech he addressed many of the challenges local authorities are facing and the asks of government to provide funding to meet the substantial financial pressures in children’s services. Amongst numerous rounds of applause from delegates, John highlighted the issues around child poverty, many of which have been created or exacerbated by national policy decisions. During his speech, he announced the publication of the ADCS policy paper A future vision for the education system which outlines the need for a more inclusive system that meets the needs of all children and young people, with local authorities at its heart. Finally, he highlighted some immediate measures government must take:

• Set out national conditions to intervene in the children’s residential care market;

• Ensure the successful implementation of the agency workforce reforms and revisit the issue of project teams;

• Revisit the 2014 Children and Families Act and SEN Code of Practice to remove the drivers of demand that have overwhelmed the system;

• Modernise the home to school transport legislation, the core of which dates back to 1944;

• Revisit the impact of the ever growing inspection regimes on the system; and,

• Remove the fragmentation by design in our education and health systems to integrate at local level.

The full transcript of John’s speech can be found here and the link to the press release is available here.

There were a range of sessions on offer throughout the conference. On Wednesday, we had a session focussing on the Families First for Children pathfinder programme and heard from colleagues from the three LAs that are Wave 1 pathfinders. They discussed their work trialling the reforms across family help, child protection, family network support packages and safeguarding partner arrangements. Workshops that afternoon focused on improved practice in response to child sexual abuse; how councils are supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and the impact of national developments in this space; and an overview of Hampshire’s journey in developing and implementing a Family Help model in response to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care.

On Thursday we heard from David Johnston OBE MP, Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing who despite being unable to join us in person, delivered his keynote speech virtually. He noted that the Department is committed to further understanding the myriad issues faced by the sector and is keen to work with and listen to LAs to find solutions.

Sub-plenaries on Thursday included inputs from Norfolk and Derby councils who shared their experiences of taking an analytical and structured approach to adopting an inclusive system in children’s social care and SEND and the impact this has had. Delegates also had the opportunity to hear about schools at the heart of their communities during a sub-plenary session, chaired by Heather Sandy, Chair of the ADCS Education Policy Committee, and with insightful input from Helen Lincoln (DCS Essex) and Tim Aldridge (DCS Camden), which looked at ways in which schools and LAs can work together to create a more inclusive environment. Workshops that day covered multi-agency safeguarding; kinship care and the ADCS principles for a system of extended family care; and the delivery of early education and childcare - looking at what works and how the whole system can support the early years and ensure all children and families have access to support.

On Friday, the final day of conference, delegates engaged in a variety of workshops. We discussed how learning from national reviews has created positive change for children with disabilities and complex health needs; plus, a session looking at supporting whole family emotional wellbeing through trauma-informed parenting programmes. We ended the day with plenaries from Ofsted including a keynote from HMCI Amanda Spielman and NHS England Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard, before Councillor David Fothergill, Chair of the LGA Community Wellbeing Board gave his closing remarks.

There was lots of activity on social media, via #ncasc23, over the last three days. Speeches and presentations from the event will be posted onto the conference website. After another enjoyable and eventful conference, we hope to see you all again at next year’s conference, held in Liverpool, for more interesting discussion and debate.

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