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

Addressing delegates at the virtual National Children and Adult Services Conference Jenny Coles, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), today said:

On Covid-19 and inequalities across society:

“The pandemic disproportionately impacts upon older people, the poor and the young. Older people because they are more likely to experience severe symptoms and die. The poor because they live in poor-quality housing and have in-secure work. And, the young because of the impact on their education and their future life chances. More than 4 million children were living in poverty before the pandemic and a further 200,000 children into poverty. Children from BAME groups are more likely to be in poverty and children from households in the bottom fifth of income distribution are over four times more likely to experience severe mental health problems than those in the highest fifth. These factors and others potentially severely limit children’s life chances.”

On the need to invest in children’s services:

“The case for investing in children has never been stronger if we are to prevent the long tail of disadvantage from blighting the lives of children and young people for a generation. Investment must be prioritised to focus on:

• Prevention and early intervention

• Re-setting the SEND system to ensure the needs of children are met in mainstream settings where possible and as close to home as possible

• Care and sufficiency challenges of a lack of available and sustainable homes in the right place at the right time. The market, which is an illusory market, will not address the spiralling costs of independent placements

• Investing in a first-class education for all pupils. One that is inclusive, has a broad curriculum and employs a range of assessment and testing tools which allow all pupils to demonstrate their potential.”

On the care system:

“The imperative of central and local government acting in concert to address the pressures in the care system is clear. The single biggest cost pressure within children’s services budgets is the cost of homes for children in care. Mergers and buy-outs by venture capitalists are actually contracting the number of providers in the ‘market’. The Care Review offers the opportunity to think creatively about using care in a flexible way to support families staying together rather than separating them – a shared care model. It is time to act.”

On recovering, re-storing and re-setting after the pandemic:

“Throughout the pandemic many, many families have shown remarkable resilience. We have also seen a reaffirming of the strong partnerships that exist between local authorities and schools. There is an opportunity for government to pursue its levelling up agenda, through the lens of social justice and for the statutory and voluntary sectors to play their parts. How?

• By increasing spend on early years, particularly in deprived areas

• By actively tackling child poverty. This year, 2020, marks the 21st anniversary of Prime Minister Blair’s pledge to eradicate child poverty by 2020

• By focussing forensically on closing the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers.

None of us is wholly sure what lies beyond the Covid horizon. But I know my colleagues in children’s services across England will remain committed, as I am, to making this a country that works for all children.”



• 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

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