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The complexity and the cost

Three weeks on from our ADCS conference in Manchester and I am still feeling a sense of positivity from the experience of the week. Amongst the not so insignificant distraction taking place in Downing Street, the conference presented a plethora of thoughts, insights and quite frankly brilliance from across our sector. On the most basic level it reflected not just the breadth but the complexity of the role of the Director of Childrens Services. On many occasions it was noted that we are in what feels like the most complex, demanding, and challenging of times for children’s services. Not just because of the three major reviews in progress, but the emerging and real challenges for our children coming out of the pandemic, the cost of living crisis, workforce crisis, placement crisis and continued pressure on budgets. What also shone out of the conference was the support across the Association for each other - the kindness, the recognition of the pressure as well as the joy of our role, and the support across the sector for each of us to take on the challenge of today.

It feels like there is a real sense of urgency now around the cost of living crisis that is upon us. Both for the families with whom we work and for many of our staff. Over the years we’ve become adept at developing or supporting the development of resources and different strategies to support those families for whom money is a real stretch and indeed a real pressure. We know from a recent project lead by Professor Paul Bywaters and Dr Guy Skinner that poverty and inequality are key drivers of harm to children. One of the recommendations from the project, alongside the recommendation for a national ‘levelling up’ policy that cuts family poverty, is that we as a system need to engage more effectively with children and family’s basic material needs. How do we make poverty more visible in our work and is it possible for us to provide more provision of timely financial and practical support? This feels like the right thing to do and focus on but a challenge not just for children’s services but for the wider system. Resources are tight; we’re already making tough decisions about where to spend the ever-dwindling pot of money we have to run our services. However, the focus on poverty and its impact on our children and young people remains paramount.

And then for our staff across the children’s workforce who too are sometimes having to make the choice between heating and eating or facing the challenge of filling their car with petrol in order to make the home visits, run the buildings, and other work we need them to do. I am sure we are all wrestling with how best to support our workforce to continue to work in children’s services throughout this crisis.

Amongst all of this, as former ADCS President Matt Dunkley reminded us in his blog – we have the best job in the world and it remains our challenge to continue to lead for children in this complex space.

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