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Resetting our ambition for children

During this last turbulent year, our commitment to supporting our children has not changed. Their significance to us as families, communities, and as a country is enormous and investing in them and in their lives is both a privilege and a responsibility. They are our present and our future. How then after a year in which children, along with most of us, have suffered disruption, missed opportunities, isolation and loss, do we build recovery?

It is time to reset our ambition for and with our children, to think big and bold and then focus on a clear long-term plan and commitment, with sustainable investment in them and their lives. There is now an opportunity to rethink, to use our learning from the past year to “Build Back Better”.

Our wonderful outgoing ADCS President Jenny Coles who has led us through the ‘Covid year’ without seeing any of us face to face, spoke in her blog last week about shaping new horizons and building a set of ‘national Commitments to Children’. As I pick up the Presidential baton today, to lead and influence that ambition and commitment on behalf of ADCS this year, I am very grateful to her for all she has achieved on behalf of children and on behalf of us all. Together with a great new Vice President in Steve Crocker and the brilliant ADCS team, the work will carry on.

Our ambition is for all children and of course their families. We have long known about the value of local system based early help but we have struggled to sustain it due to shrinking resources and cuts to local authority funding which has been halved since 2010. However, there is much to indicate that this year is one to draw out the evidence of the value of early help and to press for long term sustainable investment. We have recently seen the nationally recognized impact of flexible local leadership and agile support during Covid, the refocused Supporting Families programme, the Best Start in Life vision for the 1001 critical days, and Sir Kevan Collins’ work on Education Recovery which includes not just excellent education, but local wrap around support. Looking forward we will use our local expertise and partnership with early years settings, schools and colleges to support education recovery and the emotional wellbeing and safety of our children. We will shine a light on inequality and the widening gaps exacerbated by Covid but also on the strength and resilience our children and families have shown.

For those children who need support from a social worker or the care of the local authority, a focus on the development of best practice will continue. Vulnerable adolescents are a big priority for us and our expertise in areas such as complex safeguarding, working with gangs, tackling youth violence and supporting young people’s mental health has grown but there is much still to do. We will focus on excellent relationship-based, trauma informed practice and seek ever closer partnership with health colleagues to meet children’s needs better. The Social Care Review is also now in full swing and we will engage fully by sharing evidence and looking at the opportunities ahead. Our voice is one of many and we remain grateful for the expertise of our children in care, our care leavers and the care experienced who have guided our learning in recent years. There is much more to do while holding onto the question posed by the awesome Dave Hill in 2016, “What’s love got to do with it?” We know the answer!

The Association has been able to connect and engage even more this year thanks to virtual working and a passion for meeting children’s needs. ADCS has felt like family as we have collectively mourned the loss of colleagues who were special to us. We welcome our growth and the opportunity to influence for good, regionally, nationally and with specialist expertise, so do get involved where you can, especially in one of our policy committees if you are a member. The establishment of a vision and long-term plan for children, with cross departmental working and resources that demonstrate that commitment should be a central government priority and we will be doing all we can to influence that. I look forward to working with you!

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