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On love, and love after lockdown

The devastating loss of our friend, colleague and ADCS Past President Dave Hill had a huge impact on our sector last week, and on the many of us who knew, loved and admired him. Dave always was a hard act to follow - whether you spoke after him in a meeting, followed him into a job or exchanged anecdotes and gossip with him in the bar at the ADCS Annual Conference - he was brilliant at all of it. The moving tribute of publishing Dave’s 2016 blog What’s love got to do with it? last week was another example. The vague collection of dull thoughts that were bouncing around in my head to share with you this week were immediately rendered irrelevant and insignificant. How do you follow that blog?

The only answer was to go with Dave’s flow and to look forward – as he always did. There is a member of my household (nameless to spare her embarrassment) who is addicted to an American reality series called “Love After Lock Up”. Residing in the outer tundra of satellite channels, it follows the fate of relationships forged by correspondence with prisoners, on their release. Frankly, it’s unlikely to be troubling the BAFTA judges, but its premise is interesting to consider in the context of Dave’s treatise on love and our current situation. To paraphrase, what happens to “Love After Lockdown”?

Dave reminded us of what does (and doesn’t) matter in this world and this job, where we live with a combination of privilege and challenge, joy and pain. Many of us have experienced the “I don’t know how you do your job!” dinner party conversation, based on the negative press our jobs attract. But what we know, and they don’t, is the unique pleasure of seeing children thrive and succeed in our care, overcoming the odds and their trauma to flourish. As Dave said, we deal in the currency of unconditional love – children’s need for it, and our need to ensure they receive it and are protected by it. Last week I received a beautiful letter from a UASC care leaver who had just achieved top honours in a degree in architecture, now going on to do his Masters. He came into our care as a frightened, deeply traumatised child with no English and significant mental health issues. He described the care, support and, yes, love he had received from social workers, Personal Advisors and carers in Kent that nurtured him to where is now. What a privilege to receive.

One aspect of the universality of the current crisis is that it has acted like a chef’s “reduction”- everything feels more concentrated, more intense, more impactful. This is particularly true for children and their experiences, positive and negative, of lockdown. Children have already sacrificed months of their learning for the health and wellbeing of us all and ADCS President Jenny Coles has spoken eloquently of the need to ensure they are not the long-term victims of Covid-19 as they were of austerity. As we approach the next stage, it will once more fall to us to make the case for children, and for childhood, in the public realm. This will be a fight for resources, but also for public opinion. The public has shown extraordinary love for the NHS, and we need to galvanise national sentiment to show similar love and commitment for our children, to prevent a generation being hugely damaged. In the words of Dave Hill, “We need to start talking about love. The children we care for deserve nothing less”.

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