Talking must now lead to plan of action

I’m writing this blog before I’m due to go on holiday and hoping the fiasco with the air traffic control fault is resolved soon so we can get away to a warmer and sunnier climate. I’ve worked throughout the whole of August and remember a time when this month was less frenetic, with fewer emails and scheduled meetings, where you could catch up on things. I think those days have gone now since it was a month filled with activity and meetings with the Department for Education (DfE) and the Home Office (HO) on a number of issues which I covered because John Pearce, our President, was having a well-earned break. Areas covered included the implications of the High Court ruling banning the use of hotels for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking (UAS) children, the associated impact because of the lack of suitable placements and the possible options to tackle this, and latterly as I write this, the change to the guidance for schools with confirmed Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC). Oh, and with a live interview on the Radio 4 Today programme on school attendance thrown in early one morning.

Now some of you reading this could say that this is self-inflicted because you put yourself forward to be Vice President (VP). And whilst I have said before it’s a privilege to be VP, to some extent I would have to concede the point! In recent blogs, my colleagues Colin Pettigrew and Jo Fisher have written brilliant pieces offering their reflections on the implications of the High Court ruling referenced above. There’s no doubt that if you put aside that the National Transfer Scheme (NTS) is in desperate need of review because it was simply not designed to support the dispersal of such significant numbers of young people from points of arrival, since the High Court ruling, as Directors of Children’s Services we have all played our part in supporting Kent and complying with the NTS.

However, there’s no doubt that the biggest challenge we all face in implementing the NTS and now, in the face of the High Court ruling, being compliant with the law, is the sheer lack of placements. We all know that the High Court ruling is not going to magically create more placements for UAS children. ADCS has put forward a number of proposals to support a functioning NTS which has formed the basis of much discussion with the DfE and HO. What has been challenging overall is that we have been discussing the need for a broader range of placement options for UAS children with the DfE and HO since the end of last year and haven’t really made any progress. It’s frustrating that it seems to have taken a High Court ruling that has created the crisis to start more involved discussions about placement sufficiency for UAS children, but solutions are not quick. We have to work as a system in a creative and solution focused way, and we need to see a clear plan from the government, outlining the short and medium term actions to improve placement sufficiency.

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