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Tue, 09 Jul 24 10:00

"There is not just one story"

It doesn’t seem possible that I am writing my last blog as President almost exactly a year since we went into the first “lockdown”. I said in the first (of now many) videos, filmed on my phone, that we are used to dealing with challenges in children’s services – I can’t say, or indeed any of us could have thought it would be such a challenge, go on for so long and with such consequences for family, work and home life.

We know there is growing evidence of the impact of the pandemic on children and young people and their families. From early in the pandemic, we have collectively as ADCS focused on bringing these pressures to the attention of government, nationally, regionally, locally and the wider public through our publications Building a Country that Works for all Children post Covid-19, the EHE analysis, the submission to the spending review and Safeguarding Pressures. We’ve pushed for support for free school meals and highlighted the challenges of poverty, including the significant increase in claims for universal credit and the wider differences felt by children not being able to access remote learning effectively; emotional and mental health challenges; domestic abuse and hidden harm. We know many of these pressures were present before, however the impact of the pandemic has further embedded within our communities the inequalities experienced by children affected by their family’s access to good quality housing, employment, positive health outcomes and differential experience of opportunity depending on their ethnicity or disability.

Yet now there is also the opportunity to recognise there is not just one story that captures the experiences of the past year, but many, and crucially we have the opportunity to create new stories challenging current inequalities and shaping new horizons. What better time than now for a national set of Commitments for Children to show all young people that they matter, they are important and cherished, and that they inspire. Commitments that capture their hopes and aspirations with confirmation that support will be there for all children to have opportunities throughout their childhood for a bright future and to flourish. This need not be the story of a “lost generation” but the story of successfully bringing change - as long as action is taken now. In an animated video, first shown at the 2020 National Children and Adult Services Conference, young people in care from Hertfordshire spoke about the values they feel are important to support young people. They said they wanted us to “show we trust their words”; “feel proud of their progress”; and that “Love is Love and we should be treated equally”. Not a lot to ask to achieve so much.

I know our new President Charlotte Ramsden will absolutely take up this challenge with energy and determination! Her passion for improving children’s outcomes is awesome and she might even get to see a few people in person during her presidency! Steve Crocker, our new Vice President, will bring all his experience to Team ADCS - and what a team it is! ADCS this year has increased in membership and our strong work in the regions has been crucial in providing support to each other during these trying times whilst ensuring the local authority role for children and families has been recognised by government. This fundamental commitment to working together has meant we have deeply felt the loss of colleagues Helen Blackman and Dave Hill who contributed so much to our collective work – you will both be greatly missed but your achievements remain.

And last but certainly not least, Sarah and the ADCS staff team have been fantastic in steering us, and me personally, through by getting our voices for children heard and changing how ADCS operates – who would have thought 12 months ago that we’d run a virtual seminar for over 1,000 people in partnership with the Judiciary and Cafcass!!

What a year, what a privilege it’s been to be President, and what a lot of stories. Thank you!

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