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ADCS President’s address at the National Children and Adult...

ADCS President’s address at the National Children and Adult Services Conference 2023

Addressing delegates at the National Children and Adult Services Conference in Bournemouth, John Pearce, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), today said:

On child poverty:

“The Joseph Rowntree Foundation recently published its fourth study on destitution across the UK… the study found that around one million children in the UK experienced destitution in 2022, this is triple the number of children in 2017… How did we arrive at a place where one million children have not had their most basic needs met? It has become clear that many of the challenges we face have been created or exacerbated by national policy decisions…”

On education:

“You may remember that last year, the Schools White Paper landed… the following day, the SEND and Alternative Provision Green Paper was also published and the link between the two was clear for all to see… For the first time in a long time, we had a welcome and clear articulation of what an inclusive education system would look like, it all felt too good to be true and unfortunately it was! The Schools White Paper was put back on the shelf and the Schools Bill withdrawn… This is why ADCS has today published a vision for the future of the education system.

“Too often the education debate is too narrowly focused on schools, at the expense of early years settings and further education colleges… the early years provide the best opportunity to close the attainment gap… the government has announced major investment and reform for childcare, but it’s based on getting parents back into work, rather than supporting professionals to give children the best possible start in life… The same is true of further education. For many young people, vocational routes offer the best opportunity for study and development… It is clear that the education system needs change. It needs a long-term vision and crucially, it needs to work for all children and young people.”

On funding:

“Councils up and down the country are… facing the real prospect of issuing Section 114 notices and the biggest financial risks now lie in the service areas we are responsible for, those we provide to children and adults… The significant cost pressures on children’s services are in the main driven by either national policy, or the retrenchment of our partners into what they regard as their ‘core’ business… In children’s services this will mean moving more funds away from essential early help… we are not and should not be a blue light service… Government has been promising a new funding formula for years, it’s time to bite the bullet before it’s too late.”

On the agency workforce:

“The government recently published its response to the child and family social worker workforce consultation and ADCS welcomed this as a positive step in the right direction… however, we would have liked the proposals to go further and continue to see no positive case for members of project teams to have a statutory case holding role… but for the time being, there is a plan which now needs to be implemented at pace.”

On children’s homes placement pressures:

“It cannot be right that the largest 20 independent providers of children’s social care homes made more than £300 million of profit last year, every penny of which came directly from the public purse… we need government to act on this now… Earlier this year ADCS developed an alternative vision for regional care cooperatives… Ultimately, we need a national set of rules to drive a level of transparency through the system that enables local authorities to develop and operate commissioning models which are rooted in the needs of children, rather than shareholders.”

On partnerships and Working Together, the statutory guidance for safeguarding partners:

“…It becomes deeply problematic when partners do not interpret their fundamental safeguarding responsibilities as core to their functions, a good example being the Right Care Right Person programme being implemented by the Police. The updated Working Together guidance must be clear about the expectations of safeguarding partners and their responsibilities to children and young people. Very rarely is a single agency response enough but we don’t have the models available to us to respond in a way that I am sure both children’s social care and health colleagues would want to. A shared endeavour with the creation of an integrated response through a children’s better care fund could provide a delivery vehicle for some of this work.”

On the national transfer scheme (NTS) for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children:

“…The NTS was established as a voluntary scheme in the summer of 2016, which seems like a lifetime ago… It was not designed to deal with the huge increase in numbers of children arriving… While the recent high court judgment has significant implications for the functioning of the NTS… it helpfully clarified the primacy of the Children Act 1989 and the duties local authorities owe to all children in this country… It’s clear children’s needs must always be front and centre in everything we do, not just morally but also legally.”


The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) Ltd is the professional leadership association for Directors of Children’s Services and their senior management teams in England.


• The full speech can be found on

The ADCS policy paper on the future of the education system mentioned in the speech can be found on

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