“Once in a generation opportunity”–let’s make sure it is!

It’s been three years since I wrote my first blog for ADCS, based on Wonder Woman, and whilst I still firmly believe that superheroes exist, my experience from the last three years has taught me that the true heroes are often much closer than you think! Notwithstanding the true heroes are our children; I will continue my endeavour for magical powers and fabulous outfits, however, I think the woman herself sums it up perfectly: “if it means interfering in an outdated system, to help just one child…..I’m willing to accept the consequences”.

At the end of last week, the government launched the long-anticipated independent review of the children’s social care system. The DfE has said the review will be a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform systems and services”, tackling “major challenges including the sharp increase in recent years in the number of looked after children, inconsistencies in practice and outcomes, and the failure of the system to provide sufficient stable homes for children.”

I very much welcome this review and I know ADCS is looking forward to wide engagement to ensure that our systems leadership experience and expertise informs the thinking. Whilst I agree with the statement that there are challenges in the system that impact greatly on the quality of outcomes for our children, my focus, as I know it will be for many of you, will be to engage constructively but strongly to ensure that the scope doesn’t just focus on presenting challenges, discussing the problems and how hard it is – that’s the easy bit! As a sector, with our children and young people, we must help ensure that the wider societal determinants and true causes behind these challenges are heard and understood, not just the presenting issues. Without turning our attention to the drivers within the system, we will never achieve meaningful reform which has the needs of children and family front and centre. We need to inform the final recommendations and work together to make sure that they are then reflected in future comprehensive spending reviews.

I am also pleased that the intention is for the review to be multi-agency as we know that it is not just local authority social care that has a responsibility and role in safeguarding. Lockdown has shone a light on this more than ever. I hope the commitment from across departments nationally continues, but let us ensure, together, that any changes are not just playing at the edges structurally. It’s vital that the review is purposeful, resulting in better outcomes for children in and on the edges of care, greater collective accountability, investment, children’s voices being heard, and better join up in terms of policy and action.

Finally, and most importantly, I am encouraged that our true superheroes will be part of an ‘experts through experience’ group informing the review. ‘Once in a generation opportunity’ is the catchphrase – let’s make sure the current generation that have the lived experiences are able to have the strongest voice to help shape the right support for the next generation.

It’s hard to believe I haven’t seen so many of you in person for such a long time. I really hope you are all well. ADCS has done a fantastic job in keeping us all in touch with each other virtually, but I for one hope that I will see some of you soon; I’m really missing the human and personal element of connecting with each other. Thanks so much to those of you who have supported me, I very much look forward to another term as an elected director.


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