New ways of leading

As I prepared myself mentally for taking on the role of ADCS Vice President, I had no idea even four weeks ago that I would be doing it in a world of virtual reality, online meetings and the knowledge that even a food shop or a daily walk needs to be carefully planned. The sense of disorientation has required some adjustment to find ways to both live and lead in a meaningful way. Technology has never been my strong point but thanks to the skills and patience of others I can now navigate Microsoft Teams with at least enough competence to function!

If I have felt that way, as I know many colleagues have, then I can only begin to imagine how the current turbulence is impacting on the children, young people and families that we serve, particularly the most vulnerable. The schools and education settings that provide learning and support are shut to all but a few, our early help services, youth work, and community support are scaled back to mostly on-line offers and we are working innovatively to ensure children remain safe with a cocktail of face to face and virtual social work visits plus multi-agency working arrangements that would have been incomprehensible a month ago. We are all asking ourselves, how are our children and how are we focusing our individual and collective efforts to support them and keep them well and safe during this unprecedented time?

The passion, determination and innovation of our services and our partner organisations in the face of Covid-19 has been amazing and we have achieved the kind of change in three weeks that would otherwise have taken years, truly making the best use of our burning platform. The collective wisdom and skill of ADCS both regionally and nationally is giving us the opportunity to influence and advise government during this crisis.

Jenny Coles as our fantastic new President has articulated the Association’s priorities for the year ahead in last week’s blog and they are so relevant to the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. How do we tackle poverty that has been further escalated through job loss and economic uncertainty? How do we minimise domestic abuse when the risk is increased by families confined to their homes? How do we promote inclusion and belonging when many of those we want to include are particularly vulnerable right now? Although we have been in emergency planning mode we are already starting to talk about recovery and preparations for the future. Our understanding of loss and trauma informed working will be vital to help co-produce recovery plans when the time is right.

This pandemic with local, national and international challenge is a crisis like no other, when we have even greater opportunity to show leadership and influence for the good of those we serve. We are using our learning about the importance of relationship-based practice to build relationships differently and are developing responses to the things that matter the most that will give us a platform to influence national decisions around support for children, young people and families for the future. We are celebrating the value and commitment of our staff who are continuing to deliver essential front line services and deal with the challenges of using PPE, with risk assessments based not just on safeguarding but on infection. It is heartening to see that the value of our social workers, our education and early years staff, plus other key children’s services workers who are being increasingly recognised in public statements and in the incredibly moving weekly clap for NHS and key workers.

Despite the turbulence of this time, with our collective skill, leadership and passion, the voice and value of our children and their families will be heard and we will emerge with increased strength and ability to influence for good. ADCS has never been so essential and I look forward to supporting Jenny this year as she leads us forward to make progress on the things that matter the most.



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