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Turning the corner on improvement

I can’t believe it’s that time of year again for my blog. I always start January in quite reflective a mood, thinking about the past year and the one ahead.

This year January has been an important month for me working in Norfolk as the outcome of our recent ILACS has been published after our long awaited inspection last November. I’m pleased to report it was very ‘good’ news. Those of you who know Norfolk will know the significant and systemic challenges we have faced over a number of years as we were on our long improvement journey involving multiple improvement and intervention masters, a cast of senior leaders and relentless media scrutiny.

I am so pleased with the result for our committed staff who have stuck with it. From a frontline member of staff to a senior leader, it’s not easy joining an authority on an improvement journey, but on reflection while it is challenging, and there is no magic bullet to solve the challenges faced, it can be the most rewarding and fulfilling experience both professionally and personally. I know we are all always on an improvement journey but for those colleagues just at the start of this process, or working through it now, always remember to visit the open door of regional ADCS colleagues and the network of national ADCS policy committees as you can bet someone else will have some words of advice or support to offer.

Another January milestone is Blue Monday, which seems to have become a way of raising awareness of mental health. I was at a session with some of our young people recently as part of the launch of our youth strategy and unsurprisingly mental health was their top priority. The young people I spoke to were willing and able to talk about their own needs and experiences, but what about those who don’t feel able to, or can’t, ask for help?

Mental health has been a priority at ADCS this year and continues to be a significant concern for us all working in children’s services. We must look differently at ways to build emotional resilience, support good wellbeing and treat mental ill health. This was a key message coming from a recent ADCS thematic report on children’s mental health. There is an urgent need to respond to the significant rise in anxiety and low self-esteem amongst children and young people and for a more preventative, whole systems approach to be pursued nationally. There is currently a lack of consistent mental health training for the 7.6 million members of staff in the wider children’s workforce. In Norfolk, we are working with the Anna Freud Centre and partners to begin to address this. We will keep you updated on how this develops.

So, I nearly managed to get through my blog without mentioning the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care, but January should also bring the launch of the long awaited government response, implementation strategy and related consultation. I’m sure it will stimulate much debate, but I hope there will be a sufficient substance and bravery in terms of policy and funding so we can move beyond discussions towards meaningful and lasting action in 2023. I will reserve further comment until I see the detail.

Happy New Year all, and I look forward to working with you in the year ahead.

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