On the road to recovery with local government at the helm

I don’t think that a day has gone by over the last seven weeks when I haven’t said to someone that we are living in extraordinary and unprecedented times, a sentiment I’m sure we’ve all felt.

Moving forward, leaving the adrenaline fuelled earlier weeks of the coronavirus crisis behind us, where weekends merged into the working week, towards a steadier phase, inevitably our thoughts and planning turn to recovery. We know through that knot in our stomachs that services for children, particularly those of us in children’s social care, will start to see an increase in referrals when schools start to re-open fully and colleagues in our universal services begin to return to some semblance of normality and see more children again. ADCS has been heavily involved in discussions with the Department for Education (DfE) about recovery and certainly in the East Midlands region we are using our twice weekly virtual DCS meetings and weekly REACT calls to begin discussing the likely scenarios ahead of us.

Since the start of the lockdown I’ve found it inspiring how children’s services, schools and wider local government services have stepped up to the plate and worked in truly innovative ways to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our vulnerable children, families and adults. We’ve achieved things, such as delivering the government’s shield and protect programme, within days of its announcement - pre-COVID-19, that would have taken even the most efficient local authority at least four months of task and finish groups, plus many Cabinet papers to deliver! I really hope that central government won’t forget just how much local government has done during the pandemic, particularly when it comes to the DfE talking to the Chancellor ahead of the next Spending Review!

I think we are increasingly realising that there are still so many unknowns at this stage when it comes to recovery, with little clear evidence of how the experiences of other countries could help inform national or local decision making; for example, understanding the future constraints of social distancing in delivering necessary face to face intervention in community or school settings. There are also wider issues to think about, including the impact of children and young people being out of school for so long, not just academically, but also on their mental health and their emotional and behavioural development.

All of that said there’s so much we’ve done, which we can’t afford to lose as we go forward with recovery. The positivity of rapid decision making, coupled with the ability and ingenuity of our frontline teams to deliver change and adapt quickly has been truly inspiring. We’ve worked with our colleagues across many services to make sure we can meet the needs of all of our children, for example, delivering children’s social work within a Covid-19 context, particularly in how we understand children’s experiences. Now don’t get me wrong, I know we are rightly worried about the children we are not seeing, and that a virtual home visit is not the same as a social worker sitting in the same room as a family and picking up on all the things that are not said and wider environmental factors, but social work in a virtual context is new to our profession and we’ve all stepped up.

The Prime Minister will soon be announcing what’s in store for the next phase of lockdown and the government will hopefully be publishing its ‘comprehensive plan’. Whatever that looks like, ADCS is clear that recovery conversations must be multi-agency involving police, health, schools, DfE and other relevant services, building on all the great things we have achieved so far by working together.

I’m proud to work for local government and confident that we will be able to take the positives from this crisis and integrate this into our recovery planning; simply returning to the status quo would be a missed opportunity for us all.


Tags assigned to this article:
SOCIAL WORK 81 RESOURCES 62 DFE 5

Related Blog Articles