The power of our Association

This blog was first due a couple of weeks ago, but the small matter of an ILACs inspection diverted my attention. I can confirm that spending three of your last four weeks before retirement alongside your friends from Ofsted is simply the best way to ease out of a 40-year career.

As this is my final blog before toddling off next week, my editors at ADCS Towers gave me a bit of leeway to ruminate more personally. However, Josh McAllister’s Independent Review of Children’s Social Care final report was published this week, which I could hardly ignore in favour of a greatest hits karaoke from my life as a Director of Children’s Services (DCS). I’ll save that for my farewell drink with my South East DCS colleagues.

The publication of Josh’s report adds to the feeling that we stand at a critical juncture in the future of children’s services. Alongside the schools white paper and the SEND and AP green paper, Josh’s review and the government’s response to it will define our policy landscape for the next five years. One factor common to all is that the role of the DCS is central to each, and we will knit them all together for children, young people and their families in our local areas. This may sound obvious, but I can remember many times in my several centuries as a DCS where this was not a given, and several occasions where the role itself has been under threat. There are huge opportunities now, and the future looks bright.

ADCS has always been “a club I am proud to be a member of”, and never more so than now. The influence of colleagues from our Association to the development of all three government policy initiatives is obvious, including from our late friend Sarah Caton and ADCS staff. The measured, constructive but challenging response by ADCS President Steve Crocker and our leadership to each will ensure we play a formative role in their development and implementation.

There is power in our association, and in our Association. Any DCS is carried on the shoulders of giants – those who make up the bulk of the membership of ADCS - our leadership teams. They, alongside our wonderful staff at ADCS do the heavy lifting and keep our remarkable Association going as the collegiate, supportive and sector-leading organisation it is now, but also a lifeline for advice and friendship in the very challenging jobs we hold.

DCS can be a lonely role. We occasionally deal with tragedy, terrible loss and harm to children. We suffer a punitive and sometimes a personal blame game, fuelled occasionally by binary, zero-sum regulation and monitoring which can make the job feel undo-able (for clarity, this is not a reference to my recent ILACS). In social care our biggest successes often go unnoticed or uncelebrated, because they are invisible, and they involve stopping bad things happening. One failure will always trump a thousand successes.

However, it remains the best job in the world. We get the joy of working with children and young people and their goodness, optimism and capacity for love, and the privilege of sometimes doing things which make their lives better. There is no better feeling or motivation for getting up in the morning than to be paid to do that. I shall miss it, and it has been a joy to do all these years, but it has only been made possible by the power of our Association. Please continue to cherish it, and each other.

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