Comment on Court of Appeal Judgement on flexibilities afforded to...

ADCS President Jenny Coles said:

“Children’s services continue to do everything they can to safeguard and support children, young people and their families during the pandemic, and we are working very hard to fulfil our statutory responsibilities. Many of the regulatory flexibilities afforded to children’s social care in the early stages of the pandemic were were not used. However, the ones that were used were found to be helpful for local authorities during this unprecedented time. Where they were used we recorded this and put in place checks and balances. Children’s best interests have been, and will always be at the heart of our decision making.

Today’s Court of Appeal judgement found that the Secretary of State should have consulted with the Children’s Commissioner and other bodies representing the rights of children in care, however, this will have no retrospective impact on the flexibilities that were introduced in April and that have since expired. Although ADCS was not directly consulted on the detailed changes made to Regulations relating to children’s social care, we continue to work with Government to ensure that the needs of children and families are front and centre during this ongoing public health crisis.”

ENDS


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Comment on mothers visiting babies in care

ADCS President Jenny Coles said:

“The Covid-19 pandemic has forced all local authorities to find new ways of supporting children and families within the current restrictions. We know that it can be incredibly difficult for those parents who have not been able to visit their children and social workers do all they can to make sure that families can spend time together. The use of virtual contact can be effective in some cases but this may be less suitable for very small children. Local authorities are working hard to reduce the impact of the health restrictions on children, parents and carers where possible whilst also keeping them safe. There are many factors to take into account, for example the availability of Covid-safe spaces or the health and age of foster carers. These decisions should be made on a case by case basis and informed by a risk assessment.

Where the decision is made to take a baby or younger child into care, it is made in the great majority of cases after intensive support with the child and family, in order to safeguard the child from serious harm. There is no right or wrong number of children in care but we are seeing an increase in cases of children who have complex needs that need to be met immediately. It is vital that local authorities and their partners are able to do all they can to support families to stay together, but cuts to early help budgets make this increasingly difficult. ADCS awaits the commencement of the government’s care review”

ENDS


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Comment on the Department for Education’s Vulnerable Children...

Responding to the Department for Education’s Vulnerable Children and Young People Survey: Summary of Waves 1 to 12, Rachael Wardell, Chair of the Workforce Development Policy Committee said:

“Children’s services adapted to new ways of working when the first national lockdown began in March and the learning from this period has been valuable in establishing sound working practices during the current national restrictions. Children’s services have worked hard to stay as close to ‘business as usual’ as possible, in particular by maintaining contact with children receiving support. Because schools and other education and childcare settings have remained open, teachers and other staff are able to raise any safeguarding concerns they may have. All local authorities have had to consider how we can continue to provide essential services as members of our workforce fall ill or are required to self-isolate, including our social workers. As the survey findings show, the number of local authorities reporting over 10% of their social workers being unable to work due to coronavirus slightly increased towards the end of October. Most local authorities have responded to any workforce shortages by redeploying their existing staff to fill gaps because those staff are already familiar with local arrangements and systems.

We anticipate that our peak in referrals to children’s services is yet to come, and when it does this will put added pressure on a workforce that was already under strain pre-Covid-19, particularly if the number of social worker absences continues to rise. We hope that the current national restrictions will succeed in reducing the transmission of the virus and therefore mean fewer members of our workforce are unavailable for this essential work. ADCS has been raising for some time the issue of social work sufficiency, namely recruitment and retention. Local authorities are already doing innovative work to ensure they have a sufficient, high quality workforce, but a national campaign which tackles longstanding stereotypes head on and clearly articulates that good social work helps change lives for the better would undoubtedly help with this.”

ENDS


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Children’s Commissioner’s reports on the care system

Commenting on the Children’s Commissioner’s reports on the care system, ADCS President Jenny Coles said:

On placement sufficiency

“The suite of reports published by the Children’s Commissioner highlight a number of issues that ADCS has been raising for some time around the number of available homes and the role of private equity in residential care. Ensuring that children in care have a secure, consistent and caring home to stay in is one of the highest priorities for all local authorities. In some cases, moving homes can be positive, necessary and in the best interests of the child in question, or for other children in the same place. Indeed, sometimes there is a need to offer short term placements to support good matching processes between families and children. Unfortunately, finding the right home, at the right time and in the best location for a growing number of children in our care is becoming increasingly difficult because we face a national shortage of placements of all types. In our recent submission to the Treasury’s spending review, we called for capital investment to support local authorities to re-enter or further develop their in-house children’s home offer on an invest to save basis; over time needed revenue funding would be released to cover the running costs.”

On private equity in residential care

“Children’s services have long operated in a mixed economy with private, voluntary, charitable and community providers but multi-million-pound mergers between providers are becoming commonplace. Private equity is driving rapid changes in ownership, financial models and it is driving up risk too. Some of these providers offer excellent provision, yet market forces alone cannot address the capacity, quality or cost challenges as well as the growing geographical imbalance in residential provision. If the Treasury were to provide local authorities with the funding we need to develop and shape the market in line with the needs of the children in our care, the long term benefits for children will far outweigh the short term costs.”

On unregulated provision

“The term ‘unregulated’ does not mean unchecked, unsuitable or unsafe. Independent or semi-independent provision can be the right thing for some young people when it is used as part of a planned process as a stepping stone to independence with a support plan in place; wrap around support might be part of the package and this is often highly tailored. These kinds of placements, such as supported lodgings, are more often used for young people who are 16 or over who need some level of support, but not full-time care. In cases where this type of provision is used for young people under 16, it is never an easy decision but there are often few alternatives if multiple registered children’s homes have refused placement requests. The government has committed to undertaking a review of the care system and this must commence as soon as possible so these issues can be addressed.”

ENDS


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Comment on Ofsted report ‘Matching in foster care’

Commenting on Ofsted’s ‘Matching in foster care’ report, Edwina Grant, Chair of the ADCS Health, Care & Additional Needs Policy Committee said:

“The findings from Ofsted’s report on the experiences of four local authorities in matching children with foster carers highlights a number of important areas that are central to a successful fostering placement, such as relationships, love and a child-centred approach to matching. The majority of children in our care live in foster families and ensuring that we find the right placement, at the right time with the right support is one of the highest priorities for all local authorities. However, there is a national shortage of foster carers and the pandemic is likely to increase our need for all types of placements for children in care. We are hopeful that the government’s much anticipated care review will explore some of the issues raised by Ofsted.”

ENDS


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Government announcement of funding for children and families over...

Commenting on the government’s announcement of a Covid Winter Grant Scheme and expansion of the Holiday Activities and Food programme, ADCS President Jenny Coles said:

“The announcement of additional funding to help children and families afford essential basics such as food and energy to heat their home is to be welcomed and it is right that this funding will be directed through councils. We note that this will not cover all of the school holidays but local authorities will have flexibility around how this is distributed. The pandemic has caused, or in some cases exacerbated, longstanding issues that many families in this country face such as poverty, poor-quality housing or access to technology.

The Winter Grant and increase in Healthy Start payments will go towards giving families and pregnant women extra security over the coming year and allow councils to expand on the vital work they are already doing to support those children and families who are most in need. We also welcome the expansion of the Holiday Activities and Food Programme from Easter through to Christmas 2021. School holidays are particularly difficult for vulnerable children and far too many families are forced to make tough decisions every day between eating, paying bills or keeping warm. A comprehensive plan to tackle both the symptoms and root causes of poverty is long overdue. The government must lead this endeavour from the front as a matter of urgency.”

ENDS


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Comment on HMCI’s NCAS Conference address

Jenny Coles, ADCS President, said:

“Local authorities and their partners share the concerns raised by HMCI about the risks to vulnerable babies, particularly during lockdown. We know that babies are amongst the most vulnerable cohorts and Covid-19 is exacerbating many of the risk factors that families face. These risks are heightened by socio-economic deprivation, poor and overcrowded accommodation, and alcohol or substance misuse. The pandemic has seriously disrupted a key line of sight into the lives and homes of many families and we welcome the recent announcement from the Department for Education and Chief Public Health Nurse that health visitors, as well as other health professionals, will not be drawn away from their vital work with children going forward.

Safeguarding is everybody’s business and multi-agency practice is the core of all effective safeguarding work. For children under 4 years-old, health are the key universal service but we also need greater government investment in services that support parents with the challenges they face. This would be a good thing for children and has never been more important during these challenging times. The National Panel continues to highlight key areas of national importance in child safeguarding including a report on sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) earlier this year, and we await its follow-up report on non-accidental injury (NAI). It is vital that we are able to act on this learning by fully resourcing local authorities to protect our most vulnerable children and infants.”

ENDS


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Comment on Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme Round 2...

Commenting on the Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme Round 2 Final Report, ADCS Vice President Charlotte Ramsden said:

“ADCS welcomes many of the findings in this report which supports issues that we have been raising with government for many years, namely; the need for long-term investment, the value of early intervention, and the importance of developing the wider children’s workforce. There is mounting evidence that prevention and early intervention work, not only in reducing demand for statutory services, but also in improving children’s and family’s life chances. The role of the wider children’s workforce, including early years and youth work, as well as schools and further education settings, are key to this.

As the report notes, the additional Innovation Programme funding was key for the projects to meet their aims and this must be sustained to allow them to continue their positive progress. ADCS urges the Department for Education to support local authorities in our calls for a sustainable, long-term funding settlement from the Treasury. One that allows us to put in place the kind of approaches that we know builds consistent, trusting relationships with children and their families and therefore improves lives.”

ENDS


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NCASC20 Presidential Speech

ADCS President, Jenny Coles’ address to the 2020 National Children and Adult Services Conference

View speech

Jenny’s speech referred to a video from children and young people which can be found in the clip below


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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.”

ENDS

Notes:

• 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 www.adcs.org.uk


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Pulling children out of poverty

Over four million children in the UK live in poverty (many from working households) but these figures predate the coronavirus pandemic. Analysis by the Institute for Public Policy Research estimates 200,000 more children will be pulled into poverty by the end of 2020 because of Covid-19. Many more families are facing financial strain due to shrinking incomes and job losses and are relying on food banks just to get by, and there is a real risk the situation will get worse when the furlough scheme comes to an end this month.

Hearing Marcus Rashford speak from experience about the pervasive impact of hunger and poverty in recent weeks has been incredibly powerful, and it is right that the government temporarily extended free school meals over the summer holidays, providing a lifeline for many families struggling to feed their children. Children’s life chances and outcomes can be improved by the right policy decisions which is why we need robust national strategies aimed at tackling the root causes of poverty not just the symptoms.

Education is a way out of poverty, but poverty is a major barrier to learning. How can we expect children to be able to learn if they’re regularly going hungry and experiencing the stresses and strains of living in deprivation? Research undertaken prior to the pandemic by the Education Policy Institute highlights issues which should alarm policy makers; the education attainment gap between poorer pupils and their more affluent peers has stopped closing for the first time in a decade, and the most persistently disadvantaged pupils (a growing cohort, made up of those that have been eligible for free school meals for in excess of 80% of their school lives) continue to have worse outcomes than their peers. Alongside a focus on getting pupils back to school we need coordinated action to tackle the social determinants of educational and health inequalities to ensure every child is given the opportunity thrive. This is key to fuelling Britain’s economic recovery post-Covid-19.

Poverty is not inevitable or ‘someone else’s problem’. There is not only a moral imperative for urgent government action but an economic imperative too: improving the circumstances in which children live today will support them to develop into well educated, well developed adults who actively contribute to society. Levelling up children’s life chances should be the cornerstone of the government’s ambition to ‘level up’ society.

This column first appeared on the MJ website on 6 October 2020 https://www.themj.co.uk/Pulling-children-out-of-poverty/218804


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We must do more to understand ACEs, but recognise they have their...

The concept of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) originated in America over two decades ago. The theory is that the more ACEs someone experiences, the greater their risk of poor outcomes in later life, in part because early exposure to toxic levels of stress arising from traumatic events can change the way the brain develops. This impacts on a child’s ability to navigate everyday life which in turn increases their risk of developing health harming behaviours, including obesity and drug use.

Awareness of ACEs has grown in recent years and in many ways it offers us an accessible narrative for talking about the lifelong impact of trauma in early childhood. All to the good but no two people, or their experiences, are ever the same and I worry about oversimplification. Childhood experiences and events can shape who we become as adults but we also know that strong, consistent relationships can ease the worst effects of early adversity.

Ten traumatic events or circumstances, including domestic abuse and divorce feature, however, other known determinants of poor health and wellbeing, such as social inequality or food insecurity, are not considered here. People’s lives, their vulnerabilities as well as their personal resilience and support networks cannot be easily captured via ACE screening tools; the love and support of siblings, stepparents or even a teacher can help a child to come to terms with grief or loss.

As you can tell my feelings about ACEs are mixed. On the one hand raising awareness of the impact of adversity on children’s lives and outcomes can open the door to new multi-agency responses but on the other hand the notion of working through a clinical checklist to arrive at a score can be limiting. This could retraumatise a child whose life and experiences do not fit within neat boxes plus their risks or vulnerabilities can change over time. Instead a holistic assessment of need is required as are strengths and relationship-based approaches to support in order to build resilience and empower children and young people.

An appreciation of ACEs can engender greater understanding of the challenges children face and has real value in raising the awareness of childhood and family distress and adversity amongst the wider public, politicians and policy makers. However, this should not be used to label or stigmatise individuals or groups, such as children in our care.

It would be a significant step forward if the government took trauma aware approaches to developing new policies as would the prioritisation of early help and support to prevent the escalation of distress. An even bigger and bolder step would be the widespread adoption and use of trauma informed responses across all public services. This public health style response may help us to respond the consequences of the pandemic. Covid-19 could be amplifying some challenges and may have given rise to many more. Plus, the economic fallout may be with us for years to come so we do not yet know how this experience will impact on the lives and futures of children and young people.

This column first appeared on the CYP Now website on 29 September 2020 https://www.cypnow.co.uk/other/article/adverse-childhood-experiences-policy-context


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ADCS responds to Department for Education’s Vulnerable Children...

Responding to the Department for Education’s Vulnerable Children and Young People Survey: Summary of Waves 1 to 10, Jenny Coles, ADCS President, said:

“Referrals to children’s social care fell during lockdown and our staff have worked tirelessly to adapt and ensure that children and families remain safe, despite many being less visible at school or in health settings. The summary report of waves 1 – 10 of the Department’s survey shows that overall the number of referrals over this period remains lower than in previous years, although we have seen gradual increases with each passing wave of the survey as restrictions ease and the majority of children return to school.

Children’s services departments across the country are now returning to business as usual as schools have now fully opened and children are in contact more with professionals who can raise any safeguarding concerns. As such, working patterns and contact with vulnerable children is now more consistent with usual ways of working. Many parts of the workforce have been able to adapt to remote working and this has thankfully resulted in a lower proportion of social workers not being able to work due to Covid-19. However, when the anticipated peak in referrals to children’s services arrives, we will need government to support us. Children’s services already faced a significant funding gap before the pandemic hit and Covid-19 has only increased those cost pressures, for example, as highlighted in this report, around four in five local authorities have reported a rise in weekly foster and residential placements costs due to Covid-19. The government must act now to provide children’s services with the certainty of an ambitious and sustainable long term funding settlement. Children and their families deserve more than just the bare minimum levels of resourcing and support.”

ENDS


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ADCS responds to LGA report on ‘A child-centred...

Responding to the Local Government Association’s report on ‘A child-centred recovery’, Jenny Coles, ADCS President, said:

“There are some important messages for government in this new report from the Local Government Association, in particular the need for children to be at the heart of recovery planning. We share concerns raised about the impact of Covid-19 on children and families, particularly the most vulnerable and significant cuts to funding for early intervention and preventative services. Before the pandemic, children’s services were dangerously close to becoming a ‘blue light’ service, too many children and families were unable to get the support they needed when they needed it and were reaching crisis point as a result. Covid-19 is creating a perfect storm of extra challenges for children, families and the services supporting them, and we anticipate significant increases in demand are just around the corner, when the hidden harms of the past seven months become apparent just as the economic downturn begins to bite. This report underlines the need for government to properly resource children’s services as we gear up to support more children and families recover from the impact of the pandemic in addition to those we were already supporting. We need and want to be able to support children and families who need it but without more funding from government further cuts to vital services will be necessary. Funding children’s services on a shoestring budget is not the right thing to do, nor is it a smart economic policy. How can we ‘build back better’ as a country without investing in our future, in our children and the full range of services they rely on today.”

ENDS


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ADCS responds to the SoS’s speech on adoption

Responding to the Secretary of State’s speech on adoption Jenny Coles, ADCS President, said:

“Finding loving, stable homes for children who cannot live with their birth families is a priority for all local authorities, and councils continue to support adoption where it is the right option. Over recent years, we have made good progress in terms of timeliness of placements however it remains that some children continue to wait longer than others. We need more people from all walks of life who want to adopt to come forward if we are to meet the diverse needs of the children who are currently waiting; those children who often wait the longest for adoptive families are older, sibling groups, and from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

“We can’t be complacent when it comes to making what are complex and life changing decisions on behalf of the children in our care, therefore, it is right that there is a rigorous and thorough assessment and approval process for adopters, one that ensures vulnerable children don’t face further trauma and loss. If an ethnic match with potential adopters is considered to be the right thing for a child, then it should be pursued.

“While the national focus continues to be on adoption, it remains the placement choice for a small number of children in care. ADCS members are committed to encouraging a widening of the debate about adoption to fully recognise the value of all forms of permanence for the children in our care, many children get the stability and love they need in foster care, residential care, kinship care or special guardianship arrangements, for example. Above all else, it is important that the needs and best interests of each individual child always remains at the heart of decision making.”

ENDS


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ADCS responds to the announcement on 2021 school exam dates

Responding to the Secretary of State’s announcement on 2021 school exams Gail Tolley, Chair of the ADCS Educational Achievement Policy Committee, said:

“Too many children and young people have had their lives disrupted because of Covid-19 both inside and outside of school. Although yesterday’s announcement provides a degree of certainty for them, their teachers and schools about dates for summer 2021 exams, ADCS is calling on government to quickly publish contingency plans in case exams cannot take place. Ongoing disruption in areas experiencing extended lockdown, with classes, whole year groups and even whole schools being continuously impacted by closures means pupils spending more time out of school and could even result in some learners being unable to sit their exams next year. Online learning can only go so far if pupils do not have access to the internet or a quiet place to learn at home. Our collective aim must be to ensure any contingency arrangements are fair to children and young people who have lost out on so much learning already and to avoid, at all costs, a situation like we had this year when pupils faced additional worry and uncertainty about their futures.”

ENDS


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Comment: UASC and ADCS age assessment guidance

Commenting on UASC arriving in Kent and other gateway authorities and the ADCS age assessment guidance, Jenny Coles, ADCS President said:

“The increasing numbers of asylum-seeking children arriving in Kent, as well as other gateway authorities, over the past few months has placed unprecedented demand on their services. Kent County Council recently came to the difficult decision that they can no longer accept any more newly arrived UASC into their care because it is unsafe to do so, despite their best efforts to avoid such a situation. We are thankful to the local authorities who have offered their support, indeed over 140 children and young people arriving at Dover have since been safely placed with other local authorities. Councils want to help but to do this we need more support from government, for example, government must address the unresolved and ongoing issues with the National Transfer Scheme (NTS) that the Association has been raising with them for years, including the need for grant funding from the Home Office to fully cover the costs of supporting unaccompanied children and young people, and UASC leaving care. Some councils support an alternative option to the voluntary system by mandating transfers under the NTS, and while rota systems have been effective in some areas, mandating transfers may be seen as the only next step if effective changes are not made soon. Providing councils with the funding they need could support transfers from Kent in the short term, and the revised scheme in the long term. Other issues include the need for quick and accurate decision to be made over a child’s asylum claim, and the need to ensure placements and specialist mental health support is available when and where they are needed. We need to work together to ensure there is a sustainable and equitable response to this humanitarian crisis that operates in best interests of children and young who are fleeing desperate situations and have risked their lives in search of safety.

“Conducting age assessments is complex and specialist work. In 2015, ADCS and a consortium of partners from local and central government, health, the police and non government organisations developed practice guidance intended to support social workers to conduct the best age assessment possible, bearing in mind the best interests of children. The practice guidance was designed to fill an obvious gap in national policy to support social workers conducting age assessments, however, it’s important to recognise it has no formal status rather it is there to advise and assist social workers. ADCS is encouraging the Home Office and the Department for Education to think longer term about the establishment of a national resource for conducting age assessments.”

ENDS


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Comment: MoJ family court quarterly statistics

Commenting on the latest MoJ family court quarterly statistics Sara Tough, Chair of the ADCS Families, Communities and Young People Policy Committee, said:

“Local authorities and the courts have made good progress in improving the timeliness of care proceedings, down from an average of 50 weeks in 2011 to 26 weeks in 2016. Although average times have since lengthened it is important to recognise the distance travelled; we are performing better for children now than we were nine years ago. Several things have impacted on timescales, for example, the number of cases has increased as has the complexity, and delays can also be caused by assessments that must be completed for family members who emerge once proceedings are already underway. When considering these statistics we must take into account the significant disruption to the work of the courts as a result of the pandemic; in person hearings were largely unavailable for the period covered and remote hearings often take longer and are not well suited to complex, contested hearings, therefore, the data may not represent general trends in the family court system.

“The Public Law Outline has benefitted children and families in terms of reducing unnecessary drift and delay in the system, but our main aim should always be meeting the individual needs of a child or young person, even if this falls outside of the 26 week limit.

“The significant increase in numbers of domestic violence remedy order applications between April to June is concerning, however, it is reassuring that there has also been an increase in the number of orders granted by the courts to protect victims. That said, domestic abuse is the most common reason children and families come to the attention of children’s social care, the Domestic Abuse Bill must go further to prevent it from occurring in the first place.”

ENDS


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Comment: report by the Parliamentary Taskforce on Kinship Care

Commenting on the Parliamentary Taskforce on Kinship Care’s report, First thought: Not an afterthought, Charlotte Ramsden, ADCS Vice President said:

“Where kinship care is considered to be the best option for a child it should be explored by local authorities. We recognise the significant role of family and friends who step in to provide a stable, loving home for children when they are unable to live with their birth families. For a child to stay in a place they know, with people they love and who love them is invaluable. Support for formal kinship carers and the children they care for is vital but can vary depending on the type of arrangement they are in, however, local authorities may provide support based on a case by case basis according to assessed need. The report describes a system whereby kinship carers and the children they care for face a post code lottery of support. Since 2010, funding for local authorities has halved and sustained increases in safeguarding activity and the overall care population is putting more pressure on resources. The forthcoming Spending Review must provide proper, sustainable funding for children’s services that enables investment in earlier support for children and families before crisis hits.

“The Taskforce highlights ways to improve the experiences of and support available to kinship carers and the children they care for, its focus on ensuring their voices are heard is welcome. We are certain this insight will be valuable to the government’s care review when it commences which should include a focus on formal kinship care arrangements; we would urge government to start this as soon as possible.”

ENDS


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Comment: ADCS submission to the CSR 2020

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) today, Thursday 24 September, publishes its submission to the Comprehensive Spending Review, outlining the clear moral and economic imperative for the Treasury to put children at the heart of its spending plans.

Since 2010, funding for local authorities has halved but need has not. Councils have worked hard to manage demand and protect the most vulnerable, but they have been left with no other option but to perversely cut the very services that enable us to intervene early before crisis hits. This is a false economy and is storing up huge financial and human costs for the future.

Local authorities are legally required to set a balanced budget, but the totality of funding allocated by central government is simply not enough: funding has not kept pace with demand. Covid-19 has further increased the cost pressures on councils and while emergency funding from government has helped, this is no substitute for a long term financial settlement that benefits all children, one that critically enables us to sustain and stabilise the services already in place while also investing to meet the unprecedented level of demand we anticipate over the coming years. The government’s current piecemeal approach to funding is not conducive to this nor is it equitable, there are several small pots of funding for some councils to trial different ways of working. Over recent years, councils have developed robust evidence of approaches that work to meet the needs of children and families and reduce demand, government now needs to fund the national roll out of these so all councils, and ultimately children, can benefit.

ADCS members have identified four priorities for investment over the period of the Spending Review: prevention, SEND, care, and education. Beyond funding, a series of national policy reforms are needed to unlock significant savings which could be reinvested into children’s services. This includes a review of outdated legislation underpinning home to school transport which sees councils spend over £1 billion per year on transporting children to and from school, reforming the SEND reforms to ensure that, where appropriate, children are educated in mainstream settings and as close to home as possible, removing the ability for significant profits to be generated from the care of vulnerable children and ensuring the best use of the funding available for the National Citizenship Service.

Jenny Coles, ADCS President, said: “Before the pandemic, there was not enough money in the system to meet the level of need in our communities, Covid-19 has further illuminated and significantly exacerbated that inadequate baseline of funding. We are seeing newly vulnerable families who we’ve never worked with coming to our attention because of issues such as domestic abuse, neglect and financial hardship, and escalating levels of need amongst those who were already facing challenges. The end of the furlough scheme in October and the anticipated recession will likely further increase the number of families who need our help and support. Local authorities are bracing themselves for an unprecedented level of demand for children’s social care, in the autumn and beyond. We need and want to be in a position to support children now and in the future and we will need increased, and crucially the right, financial support from government to do this.

She went on to say: “The Comprehensive Spending Review is taking place in a very different context to any before it, all public services have been affected by the pandemic and will have competing demands. However, the Treasury must recognise that spending on children now, improving the circumstances in which they live and learn and supporting them to become adults who actively contribute to society is the ultimate invest to save case. An unprecedented level of investment in children’s services is needed to sustain services and respond to the scale of the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable children, young people and their families. ADCS estimates children’s services will need between £4.1 billion to £4.5 billion, in each year of the Spending Review. This will cost money now, however children and society as a whole will reap the rewards in the future.”

Jenny Coles concluded: “It’s time to do things differently. We have evidence that working with children and families at the earliest opportunity, using relational, strengths based practice models works but this requires a resource intensive long term approach. ADCS is calling on government to provide children’s services with a sustainable, equitable and long-term financial settlement that enables children to thrive, not just survive in the wake of the pandemic, and prevents the need for further cuts to early help and preventative services. I want to see the Treasury use the Spending Review to reboot how it invests in children and children’s services recognising the relationship between spending on vulnerable children now and future spending on vulnerable adults tomorrow. Children and families cannot wait any longer for this.”

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ADCS responds to MoJ White Paper on sentencing

Commenting on the release of the Ministry of Justice White Paper “A smarter approach to sentencing”, Jenny Coles, ADCS President said:

“We welcome efforts to prevent crime and make communities safer, however, longer sentences will not help us to achieve this. We’ve made excellent progress in reducing the numbers entering the youth justice system over the last decade but too many children and young people go on to reoffend after serving a custodial sentence. For those who end up in custody, better support during their sentence as well as ongoing support to help them resettle into their communities and break the cycle of reoffending is key. Education is absolutely critical to this - it opens the door to positive opportunities such as long-term employment and training – so too is meeting children’s health and care needs. This is recognised in the White Paper, as it was in Charlie Taylor’s review several years ago, we need to see the pace of change increase, rapidly rising rates of violence and self-harm across the youth custodial estate underline the need for change.

“There are some encouraging proposals in the White Paper in relation to children and young people who are already in conflict with the law, such as reducing the amount of time some young people are required to disclose details of their convictions to prospective employers and the greater use of community resolutions. This must sit alongside a focus on supporting children and young people earlier to prevent offending in the first place as well as rehabilitation, funding to support youth offending teams and wider children’s services to shift the dial on this will be critical but is unremarked upon here. We also need greater emphasis and investment in tackling the root causes of offending behaviours, including poor mental and physical health, family dysfunction and low educational attainment, which will save the public purse money in the long run.

“Some of the proposals around sentencing are concerning. Although the distinct and unique needs of children are recognised in the Paper the government’s plans more closely align the youth and adult justice systems. Whilst we recognise custodial sentences are necessary for the most serious crimes, children and young people’s offending behaviours must not blind us to their underlying needs and vulnerabilities and their capacity for change. ADCS would welcome an opportunity to discuss this further with government.”

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Comment: research on machine learning in children’s social...

Commenting on new research by What Works for Children’s Social Care on the use of machine learning in children’s social care Jenny Coles, ADCS President, said:

“This report highlights the challenges of trying to predict human behaviour and gives policy makers, local authorities and others a lot to consider. Children’s social care is complex, no two families or situations are the same and building relationships are central to the work of social workers and other professionals supporting families in times of need. Although the researchers did not find evidence that the machine learning models tested in this study worked ‘well’ in children’s social care, the study did not seek to answer whether, or not, such approaches could ever work in this context. We know some local authorities are developing or exploring the use of machine learning models in children’s social care as an additional tool to support professional decision making. It could be worthwhile exploring further, particularly if it could help us to be effective in identifying opportunities to support children and families earlier before they reach crisis point.”

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ADCS responds to OCC report on the use of unregulated settings

Responding to the Children’s Commissioners call for a ban on the use of unregulated accommodation Jenny Coles, ADCS President, said:

“No child should live in unsafe, unsuitable accommodation, and we share concerns that this is not always the case. Finding the right placement at the right time for the growing number of children in our care and care leavers is a priority for all local authorities but this is becoming increasingly difficult because we face a national shortage of placements of all types. Independent or semi independent provision can be the right thing and placement of choice for some young people when it is used as part of a planned process as a stepping stone to independence with a support plan in place. This is different to it being used in emergency situations after a placement breakdown or when no other placement can be found for a child with very complex needs. A blanket ban on the use of these settings for under 18s would remove the flexibility we currently have to support young people in their journey to increased independence. It would also further exacerbate the sufficiency challenges local authorities are currently grappling with. The government has committed to undertaking a review of the care system and this must commence as soon as possible so these issues can be addressed.”

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Comment: Government consultation on the National Transfer Scheme

Jenny Coles, ADCS President, said:

“ADCS is pleased the government is consulting on changes to the National Transfer Scheme, we see this as an opportunity to raise again several unresolved issues that we have been raising with officials in the Department for Education and Home Office since 2016. Issues include woefully inadequate levels of funding, the need for a range of suitable placement options to meet the needs of those who arrive as well as availability of specialist mental health support. In the current context the need to quarantine new arrivals should be considered too. It is right that Kent and other gateway authorities should not bear the brunt of supporting the rising number of asylum seeking children arriving alone on UK shores, and we are thankful to the many local authorities who have offered their support so far to help to alleviate the immediate pressures in Kent. Any new arrangements need to be sustainable and have children and young people’s best interests at heart; we believe that the proposal in the consultation for a regional rota system has a better chance of achieving a long term equitable solution. However, a regional rota system is not a long term solution to the long standing issues that government must address, including placement sufficiency, funding levels including funding for care leavers, age assessment, and more timely immigration decision-making for children. ADCS will be responding formally to the consultation after discussions with our members.”

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ADCS statement on vulnerable UASC arriving in Kent

Jenny Coles, ADCS President, said:

“Kent County Council and a handful of other gateway authorities have been supporting a high number of asylum-seeking children for many years. Increasing numbers of arrivals in Kent by boat in the past few months has created unprecedented demand on their services and the council has reached the difficult decision that it no longer has the capacity to safely accept any more newly arrived unaccompanied asylum seeking children into their care. These children and young people are fleeing desperate situations and arrive here alone in search of safety. We are extremely grateful to those councils who have offered their support, but more assistance is needed.

“We have been here before - this is a national humanitarian crisis which requires a long term, national humanitarian response. Councils will want to help but now more than ever we need the government’s support. The Association continues to work with the Department for Education and the Home Office to address the immediate pressures in Kent and press for resolution on several long standing issues including funding, a shortage of placements and a lack of specialist mental health support to help young people recover from the traumas they have experienced. In the context of the pandemic questions remain about safely quarantining new arrivals too.

“We welcome the government’s recognition of the pressures we face and their commitment to launching the long awaited consultation on changes to the national transfer scheme later this month, the Association will be responding formally after discussions with our members in due course. Right now our priority must be to work together to ensure that vulnerable children arriving in the UK are treated with compassion and kindness and their best interests remain at the heart of our responses.”

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Comment: Ofsted visits to local authorities and csc providers

Commenting on Ofsted’s assurance visits to local authorities and children’s social care providers Steve Crocker, Chair of the ADCS Standards, Performance and Inspection Policy Committee said:

“Covid-19 has required children’s services departments to swiftly adopt new and different ways of working. Similarly, children and young people have faced months of disruption to their lives because of the pandemic, many haven’t attended school since March or been able to access the vital support services they rely on. The pandemic may have changed the way we are working with children and families (sometimes for the better) but it has not changed our commitment to meeting their needs. Ofsted’s assurance visits may be one way of capturing the learning from this complex period, including identifying best practice in the context of the pandemic as well as what needs to be improved. These visits could also be helpful in developing our responses to future waves and pandemic events. That said, while health services may have passed through the first wave of Covid-19 related activity, children’s services and children’s social care has not and we are anticipating a difficult autumn as we expect many hidden harms to emerge as children become more visible to a range of professionals. This is likely to coincide with all pupils returning to school and the commencement of other inspection activity – including inspections of youth offending teams and schools – which will involve children’s services departments; this, combined with localised outbreaks and lockdowns could create significant pressure on our services and staff and the inspectorates must be alive to this. Whilst there may be benefits in capturing learning and developing practice, care must be taken to ensure that there is a balance between inspection, assurance, developing learning and allowing local authorities to respond to what we anticipate being a very tough autumn.”

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Comment: unaccompanied asylum seeking children

Jenny Coles, ADCS President, said:

“The increasing numbers of asylum-seeking children arriving alone in Kent the past few weeks and months has created an acute and immediate capacity issue for the council. Despite their best efforts the authority is unable to safely accommodate any more new arrivals at this time. Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and young people have experienced a lot in their short lives; many have fled their homes and risked their lives in search of safety. They both need and deserve our compassion and support.

“Local authorities want to play their part in responding to this humanitarian crisis, but in order to do so we need the government’s help and support. Many children have already been settled across the country via the national transfer scheme, however, the challenges we all face, from not being fully funded for our important work in this area and a shortage of suitable placements to the dearth of mental health support, are still the same as in 2016 when the French authorities cleared the camps in Calais. We need to work together to ensure that children’s best interests remain at the heart of all arrangements and that local services are safely able to meet any additional demand; children’s lives and futures are at stake.”

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The impact of Covid-19 on childhoods and children’s services

In July ADCS published a short discussion paper aimed at capturing the impacts of Covid-19 on both services and childhoods and putting children and their lived experiences of the pandemic front and centre in national recovery plans.

Covid-19 has heightened the challenges many children and families already faced, from poor housing, hunger, safe spaces to play outside and access to adequate IT equipment or broadband so that they can learn at home. More children and families will have reached a tipping point, and we are seeing families we have not previously worked with who are experiencing domestic abuse, neglect and financial hardship. The number of applications for free school meals is increasing daily and it is estimated hundreds of thousands of children will be plunged into poverty by the end of this year because of Covid-19. There is just no way of knowing how big this cohort of newly vulnerable children and families is at this stage, or what the costs of meeting their needs will be.

The social and emotional impact of this period could cast a long shadow over childhoods for many months and even years to come. Numerous surveys show that stress and anxiety about exam cancellations and the impact this will have on plans for future study, training or employment is second only to young people’s concerns about the health and safety of friends and family during the pandemic. We anticipate a surge in referrals when children go back to school in September and in the months that follow when professionals have more face to face interaction with children and any hidden harms are uncovered. We need properly and equitably resourced children’s services to minimise the impacts of the virus on children and to support them to thrive in a post-Covid-19 world, yet I am worried that when our peak of activity arrives there will be no emergency funding left.

The government must act quickly to address the £3.1 billion funding gap the LGA estimates will exist in children’s services by 2025 and provide the equitable, long term funding we need to meet children’s needs, now and in the future. But improving children’s lives and outcomes is about more than just money. Children must become a much bigger priority for the government going forward and we need long term strategies to address the stark inequalities the virus has exposed and amplified. Covid-19 will continue to impact children’s lives for years to come, without long-term thinking we cannot create a better society with improved health and greater health equity.

Just before Covid-19 fully entered the national consciousness, Sir Michael Marmot published a report on health inequalities; the findings were stark. A decade on from his original review, life expectancy has stalled, and is even falling in some areas and for some cohorts, and health inequalities have widened. The real possibility of a second wave of the infection, more local lockdowns or a recession will likely exacerbate these inequities.

I think the past few months have shown us how much can change in a short space of time. There have been so many challenges in responding to the pandemic, but there are opportunities coming down the line to build back better and stronger, to put the levelling up of inequalities that damage childhoods and life chances at the heart of the government’s recovery plan, to prioritise people and their wellbeing over the economy. The Spending Review needs to have children at its heart and contain substantial funding for them, their families and the full range of services they rely on.

Jenny Coles, ADCS President 2020/21 and Director of Children’s Services, Hertfordshire County Council.

This column first appeared on the LGC website on 5 August 2020 | https://www.lgcplus.com/services/childrens-services/jenny-coles-childrens-services-need-funding-ahead-of-autumn-wave-of-referrals-05-08-2020/


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Comment: DfE vulnerable children and young people survey

Commenting on findings from the DfE’s vulnerable children and young people survey an ADCS spokesperson said:

“Referrals to children’s social care fell during lockdown, but as the survey shows they are starting to pick up again as restrictions ease and children are more visible. We fully expect referrals will continue to rise as children come into contact with more professionals who would usually raise safeguarding concerns. The pandemic has placed new and additional pressures on many children and families and we are seeing newly vulnerable families because of domestic abuse, neglect and financial hardship, in addition to those we were already supporting. When all pupils go back to school in September, we are expecting and planning for a surge in referrals to children’s social care services, this will create significant funding pressures, both in-year and into 2021/22. When this happens, we will need to be in a position to meet their immediate and long term needs but in order to do this we need government to support us. However, we are concerned that by the time we reach our peak in demand there will be no emergency funding left for us to draw on. Children’s services need the certainty of an ambitious and sustainable long term funding settlement and, crucially, children and their families deserve more than just the bare minimum levels of resourcing and support.”

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Comment: Families in temporary accomodation

Clive Jones, ADCS Honorary Secretary, said:

“Everyone should have a safe place to call home yet we know the lived reality for an increasing number of children and their families is very different. A lack of affordable housing and social housing is having an impact on vulnerable families and levels of homelessness across the country, and it means councils have limited options available to them when trying to find suitable accommodation for families who need it. As a result, more families are having to rely on temporary accommodation, and councils are forced to use bed and breakfast accommodation to house homeless families when there is no other alternative. We agree that the pandemic has added a whole new layer of risk for children and their families, with hundreds of thousands of children expected to be pushed into poverty by the end of this year because of Covid-19 and an impending economic crisis the situation will likely get worse not better for many families. Alongside investment in genuinely affordable housing we need government to invest in services that prevent families at risk from becoming homeless in the first place, and to recognise the wider impact of its welfare reforms on our most economically fragile households.”

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Comment: The Safety Net is Gone report

Commenting on the new CPAG report, The Safety Net is Gone, Jenny Coles, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), said:

“One in three children in England are living in poverty today, their experiences can often be overlooked and their voices go unheard. That is why we wanted to support this exercise as a means of raising awareness of the pervasive impact of poverty, which damages childhoods and life chances. It means cold homes, overcrowding, hunger and stress which can lead to family breakdown. It means charities stepping in to fill the gaps left by the state and schools feeding pupils and their families over the summer. This is simply unacceptable. We hope the findings of this survey will serve to strengthen our collective calls for action on child poverty by policy makers, sooner rather than later.”

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Comment: DfE children’s services omnibus wave 5

Commenting on the DfE’s Children’s Services Omnibus Wave 5 Research Report, Rachael Wardell, Chair of the ADCS Workforce Development Policy Committee said:

“This report provides valuable insight into a number of important areas for both local and national government to consider. The report highlights many concerns that the Association has been raising for some time around social work sufficiency, particularly the recruitment and retention of experienced social workers. Local authorities are doing innovative work to ensure they have a sufficient workforce but a national campaign which tackles longstanding stereotypes head on and clearly articulates that good social work can, and does, change lives would undoubtedly help with this. The report’s finding that 40% of local authorities lack confidence when asked if they have enough social workers to meet their needs over the next year is worrying, particularly given the context we are working in and the expected increase in demand for services when all children return to school in September.

“Most local authorities have joined their regional Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) as one element of their workforce strategy, in an attempt to improve the stability of the workforce, and to manage the cost and quality of agency social work staff. Where MoUs work well, they have delivered good outcomes for participating local authorities. However, there is definitely regional variation in the extent to which local authorities commit to the MoU, and providers of agency staff can be all too quick to exploit any lack of commitment to the principles, by pitting one local authority against another. This is unhelpful to local authorities trying to improve quality while keeping costs down, but the resulting workforce instability is - above all - damaging to children and to families, who tell us they really value continuity so they can build a relationship with their social worker. ADCS encourages all local authorities to participate in their regional MoU and to adhere to its principles.”

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Comment: ASYE child and family annual report

Commenting on the second annual report on the ASYE for children and families Rachael Wardell, Chair of the ADCS Workforce Development Policy Committee, said:

“This report provides valuable insights into the ASYE programme for children and families and the experiences of newly qualified social workers. For example, regular supervision is identified as the single most critical element in managing the workload, securing protected time and supporting overall wellbeing of new social workers. The benefits to wellbeing are enhanced when new social workers have informal and pastoral support from their colleagues. Access to buddying, training and coaching are valued too. There is important learning in this report for local authorities, particularly in relation to the significant value senior management ‘buy in’ can bring to the success of the ASYE and how the level of support available to newly qualified social workers, and all those involved in supporting them, is key to their wellbeing. Social work is complex and challenging work and good employers provide appropriate support at every stage of a social worker’s career. It is in this spirit that some organisations are considering extending elements of the ASYE support package into the second year of practice.

“Workforce sufficiency continues to be a challenge for all local authorities, and we are committed to ensuring that social workers entering the profession are well supported with their workload and wellbeing. For newly qualified social workers developing their practice in their first year in employment this is particularly important, and a well-designed ASYE programme is a good way to do this. However, we recognise there is variation across the country. This is in part because the programme is employer-led and therefore the approaches taken are largely informed by the local context. That said, it is encouraging to see that the majority of ASYE programmes visited were delivered at least in line with basic requirements, and where there were issues about the ASYE experience these were acknowledged by employers, who will want to improve what they offer. Local authorities remain committed to getting the basics right so that good social work can flourish. This includes ensuring social workers get the support they need, have manageable workloads, and receive regular, reflective supervision where they can raise issues about their work. We cannot support the children and families we work if we do not support the staff who work with them.”

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Comment: New Ofsted data on private and voluntary providers of...

Edwina Grant, Chair of the ADCS Health, Care and Additional Needs Policy Committee, said:

“The majority of children in our care live in foster families and ensuring that we find stable placements for them is one of the highest priorities for all local authorities. There is a national shortage of foster carers and Covid-19 is likely to increase our need for all types of placements for children in care. Children’s services have long operated in a mixed economy with a range of providers involved in the delivery of children’s services locally, however, we are concerned that the trend towards consolidation and the concentration of placements in the hands of a small number of providers represents a level of risk in the system, should any of these providers fail no single local authority could step in meaning vulnerable children would suffer the greatest consequences.”

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Comment: Covid-19 and pressures on children’s services

Jenny Coles, ADCS President, said:

“Before the pandemic, a decade of austerity left local government funding in a parlous state and children’s services teetering on the edge of becoming a ‘blue light’ service. Covid-19 has exacerbated the cost pressures local authorities were already experiencing and children’s services is yet to reach its peak in demand due to Covid-19. It’s likely we will be dealing with the long term impacts of the virus on children for many months to come. Referrals to children’s social care initially reduced during lockdown but are now accelerating. When schools fully reopen in September, we expect to see an exponential surge in demand for children’s services, this will create real and significant funding pressures, both in-year and into 2021/22. Emergency funding from central government will help local authorities with our continued response to Covid-19, however, I am concerned that when the peak of activity arrives in children’s services, there will be no emergency funding left. This is when children and families will need us the most and we will need the most financial support from central government. The government must recognise that children’s services need the certainty of an equitable, long term funding settlement, children and their families deserve more than just the bare minimum levels of resourcing and support - their life chances depend on it.”

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Child Safeguarding Panel’s review on SUDI

Commenting on the National Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel’s thematic review into sudden unexpected deaths in infants Charlotte Ramsden, ADCS Vice President, said:

“We welcome this report which focuses on sudden unexpected deaths of infants in families where children are considered at risk of significant harm. The report’s emphasis on drawing together learning from cases, together with research and evidence to improve the way we work with families to reduce the risk of sudden unexpected deaths in infants is helpful. I’m sure this will lead to the development of practice models that make a difference. The Panel found some examples of good local practice but there is much more we can do to work with parents, particularly the most vulnerable, to prevent these tragedies from happening in the first place, and to address a wider range of risks to children’s health and safety. Between June 2018 and August 2019, 40 serious incidents notified to the panel involved infants who had died suddenly and unexpectedly, most involved babies under three months old. Almost all incidents involved parents co-sleeping with infants and parental drug use and substance misuse were common factors, behind each of these cases is a family left devastated by the tragic loss of their child. The report reveals that children from families who are facing a range of challenges, such as domestic abuse, poor parental mental health and overcrowded conditions at home, appear to be at greater risk of dying in this way. We welcome the emphasis on the importance of differentiated and responsive multi-agency practice as this is the core of all effective safeguarding work. We know that the impact of Covid-19 is exacerbating many of these risk factors for families which makes the report’s findings even more important. Therefore, alongside improving how we work with families locally and nationally to address the issues of safe sleeping and the wider related risk factors, we need greater government investment in services that support parents with the challenges they face. This would be a good thing for children and has never been more important in these challenging times.”

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Comment: DfE guidance on full opening of schools

Commenting on the Department for Education’s guidance on a full opening of schools, Charlotte Ramsden, ADCS Vice President, said:

“ADCS supports the governments ambition to get all pupils back to school in September. Over the next week many schools will be closing for the summer holidays but there are still issues which need to be ironed out to support a full return to school in the autumn. This includes issues around home to school transport and maintaining and managing bubbles in school settings. Complexities such as an aged school estate with smaller spaces within which to operate, delivering a broad and balanced curriculum which will require staff to move between bubbles especially in secondary schools, management of specialist support, extra-curricular provision and use of supply staff are exercising the minds of school leaders as they prepare. There is much more work to do locally, regionally and nationally to reassure parents, carers, children and staff and we are doing our utmost to support this work.

“Local authorities have a statutory duty to transport learners to and from school where they have special educational needs or disabilities or live too far from school to reasonably, or safely, walk, and we are working hard to ensure that we can fulfil our responsibilities, while aligning as far as possible with the system of controls outlined. The Department for Education’s guidance states that social distancing and ‘one metre plus’ rules will not apply on home to school transport. However, the guidance does recognise the additional pressure social distancing rules will place on the capacity of public transport services which might mean it is necessary for local authorities to provide additional school transport services to enable pupils to get to school. This will have cost and capacity implications for local authorities, and we continue to raise these issues with the Department for Education.”

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Building a country that works for all children post Covid-19

Building a country that works for all children post Covid-19

Building a country that works for all children post Covid-19 is an ADCS discussion paper looking at the impacts of Covid-19 on children and their families, in order to put their lived experiences front and centre in national recovery planning whilst also articulating what is needed to restore and reset the support services they rely on.

Read the discussion paper


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PR - Building a country that works for all children post Covid-19

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) today, Tuesday 14 July, publishes a new discussion paper on the impacts of Covid-19 on children and their families, in order to put their lived experiences front and centre in national recovery planning whilst also articulating what is needed to restore and reset the support services they rely on.

The paper attempts to capture both the challenges as well as the opportunities of the pandemic, and sets out the Association’s early thinking on the strategic risks that need addressing in order to ensure children are safe, cared for and thrive in their education and beyond. It is not intended to be an exhaustive list but the beginning of an ongoing conversation about how to build a country that works for all children post-Covid-19.

The impact of the pandemic on children’s physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing cannot be underestimated. Children and young people have faced months of disruption to their lives and sacrificed months of their education for the health and safety of us all. The pandemic has heightened the challenges many children and families are facing, from poverty and poor quality housing to access to technology, safe places to play and food and laid bare stark inequalities in our society that cannot be ignored. Nobody knows how long social distancing measures will be in place or if there will be a second wave of the virus but worrying signs are emerging about the scale of new and escalating need resulting from the pandemic.

Covid-19 has increased cost pressures on councils who have a legal duty to set a balanced budget. Three injections of emergency funding have helped but a longer-term financial settlement is needed, one which enables us to invest meaningfully in early support for families. Beyond funding, we also need to consider the robustness of the children’s system as a whole and its capacity to meet the needs of children and families, now and in the future. In planning for the re-set and recalibration, there are myriad strategic, practical and policy considerations requiring careful co-ordination. It is vital that local and national partners work together for the benefit of children and young people and there is cross government accountability for how policies affect children’s outcomes.

The Paper includes a series of immediate asks of the government to support and recalibrate children’s services, including a review of responses to the first phase of the pandemic to inform what comes next. The Department for Education should articulate the impact of Covid-19 on childhood across government and lead the charge for securing sufficient resources for children’s services in the forthcoming spending review. In terms of long term changes needed to improve children’s lives, ADCS calls on government to implement the principle recommendation in Sir Michael Marmot’s 2020 review of health inequalities in England, as well as his specific recommendations to address the inequalities children face, including increasing spending on the early years and ensuring the allocation of funding is proportionately higher for more deprived areas, reducing levels of child poverty and putting equity at the heart of national decisions about education policy and funding. ADCS members stand ready to work with government, and others, to achieve this.

Jenny Coles, ADCS President, said: “Although Covid-19 appears to pose a lower risk of infection to children and young people, we are concerned about the secondary impacts of the virus on them. Surveys undertaken in lockdown highlight increased fear, anxiety and loneliness amongst children and young people and many children have been unable to access support services they rely on. Children are in danger of being the long term victims of the disease, like they have been with austerity. This is why ADCS is calling on government to put children and their outcomes at the core of national recovery planning.

She went on to say: “Every child and young person has been affected by Covid-19, but their experiences will vary and will not be evenly spread. Some families will have benefited from this time together, but we are also seeing families we haven’t worked with before becoming vulnerable for the first time because of jobs losses but also domestic abuse and neglect, as well as those who were already known to children’s services presenting with additional challenges that we will need to meet. The entire children’s workforce has been incredible during this period, social workers and staff in residential children’s homes have embraced new ways of working to support children and families and colleagues in schools and early years settings have worked hard to keep children learning during lockdown. But the peak of activity in children’s services is only just beginning – this is when children and families will need us the most. We are clear that harms to children have not simply gone away but will become visible as restrictions ease and children are seen by schools and other settings that are likely to raise safeguarding concerns.

Jenny Coles concluded: “To achieve a country that works for all children in a post-Covid-19 world, long term strategies to close the gap in terms of education, health and poverty are urgently needed. Just before the pandemic transformed our way of life and laid bare the inequalities in this country, Sir Michael Marmot published a review of the health of the nation which found a deterioration usually only evident following a ‘catastrophic’ economic or political shock, such as the breakup of the Soviet Union. The report suggests austerity is driving rising levels of child poverty and stalling life expectancies outside of London. The key recommendation was the initiation of an ambitious health inequalities strategy, led by the Prime Minister and a Cabinet-level cross-departmental committee. There can be no delay in levelling up the inequalities faced, children’s life chances and all of our futures depend on it.”

ENDS


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Comment: Chancellor’s summer economic update

Commenting on the Chancellor’s summer economic update Jenny Coles, ADCS President, said:

“The Chancellor used his statement to set out a new three-point plan to support, create and protect jobs to help the UK recover from the coronavirus pandemic. This includes measures aimed at helping young people into jobs and funding for apprenticeships and careers advice. The focus on creating opportunities for young people is welcome particularly as forecasts suggests they will be hit hardest by an expected recession. If these apprenticeships are to meet the needs of our young people and make a real and lasting difference to their future outcomes they will need to be good quality. ADCS is clear this is not job done for children and young people. Beyond creating jobs, we want to see bold action from government to support and protect children, families and the services they rely on, helping them to recover from the impacts of Covid-19 as well as long term strategies to address the stark inequalities laid bare by the virus. Without this, children are in real danger of becoming the long term victims of the pandemic.”

ENDS


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ADCS President Written Address 2020

​ADCS President, Jenny Coles, has made a written speech to mark the start of the virtual ADCS Annual Conference 2020 for our members.

View written speech

View press release

The Secretary of State for Education and the Minister for Children and Families have produced a video message for ADCS colleagues which can be found below.


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“Councils have led their communities at this time of crisis”

“Colleagues across children’s services should be commended for their determination to keep children safe and well” throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services said in a written speech to mark the start of the virtual ADCS Annual Conference 2020.

Jenny Coles used her speech to thank directors of children’s services and their teams for their “extraordinary leadership” during the crisis, in the face of “a tsunami of pressures” and acknowledged that councils have worked hard with schools and early years settings to keep them open for vulnerable and key worker children, innovated to keep children safe from harm and supported children with special educational needs and disabilities. Similarly, school staff have worked tirelessly to provide blended learning and wellbeing support offers for pupils in school and at home. However, the impact of “the pandemic, the lockdown and loss of learning” on children’s future life chances cannot be under-estimated, neither can “the enormity of the task ahead” for central and local government and others in redressing vulnerability and disadvantage heightened by Covid-19, she said.

Jenny Coles continued, the pandemic has shone a “spotlight on inequalities and social injustice in our society”, some communities have been particularly affected. Addressing these inequities should be at the core of this country’s recovery strategy. “The difficult circumstances experienced by children and families who were already disadvantaged before the pandemic have been exacerbated” by Covid-19. Many more families have become newly vulnerable since lockdown, facing financial hardship due to job losses or reductions to their income for example. “An overhaul of welfare reforms” is needed to prevent families from being pushed into poverty, “let’s be ambitious for children and families and support them to thrive, not just survive” in a post-Covid-19 world, she said

Next week, ADCS will publish a discussion paper which attempts to articulate some of the short- and longer-term impacts of Covid-19 that children, young people and their families may experience, now and in the future and sets out what we think the Department for Education’s role should be, working with ADCS, in re-setting and restoring the services children and their families rely on. It attempts to put children and young people’s experiences front and centre of the national dialogue about how we as a nation recover, re-set and restore, “in a way that has been sorely lacking on the part of our national politicians” until recently. She went on to say, “the journey ahead for us and the children we work with will not be smooth”, but ADCS members are committed to working with government to make “this a country that works for all children.”

On poverty

“Last month the IPPR published analysis of the impact of Covid-19 on poverty in the UK. The analysis estimates that another 1.1 million people will face poverty at the end of 2020 including 200,00 children. Without urgent action to protect families from the financial hardship caused by the pandemic, this would bring the total number of children living in poverty in the UK to 4.5 million by the end of this year…What are the weapons in our armoury to fight child poverty? Firstly, direct huge resources at families with children. Secondly, direct huge resources at schools and colleges. Thirdly, direct huge resources at local government. Plainly this would require new additional money but it’s also an opportunity for government to look at the profile of its investment across departments and change it.”

On the widening education attainment gap

“As the Education Endowment Fund has said, school closures will likely reverse progress made to close the educational attainment gap in the last decade. Sustained support is needed to help disadvantaged pupils catch up. Educational success is one of the best predictors of future success in life. Thus, understanding what causes attainment gaps and how we can address them is one of the most important policy challenges for any government and society…Education is about more than just what happens in school and during the school day. A child’s school career is connected to the rest of a child’s lived experiences. But…the DfE does divide off schools from the rest of the department’s work to improve children’s outcomes. This makes even less sense in a world where we are living with Covid-19”.

On schools

“As the nation is learning, closing schools is easy, re-opening them requires a Herculean effort on the part of many. Local authorities are principal amongst those actors working closely with schools to help government understand the myriad complexities involved in getting ready for a fuller return to school in September…One of the things that school closures has reminded us of is the dual role of schools – to provide a good standard of education and to safeguard and promote the safety and wellbeing of its pupils.”

On the Care Review

“ADCS believes that care should: protect children and young people from significant harm; address a child’s basic need for good parenting; and improve the outcomes of vulnerable children and young people. If these are the outcomes we seek to achieve, what then are the most effective means of doing so? National policy, media and public discourse are largely focussed on individual aspects of the placement conundrum – we focus too much on where children live rather than focussing on meeting their specific and individual needs.

“I sincerely hope the Care Review will start soon…I am certain that we can as a nation do better for our children in care and our care leavers.”

ENDS

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.

Notes to Editors:

• The full written address can be found on www.adcs.co.uk

The new ADCS discussion paper on Covid-19 mentioned in the speech will be published early next week on www.adcs.org.uk. If you are interested in an interview with the ADCS President please email press@adcs.org.uk


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OCC report on vulnerable teenagers

Charlotte Ramsden, ADCS Vice President, said:

“We share the concerns expressed about the current vulnerability of young people. We do not underestimate the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on children and young people, including the risks facing our most vulnerable teenagers. Covid-19 will have affected each one differently, but it is crucial that they all get the support they need to recover which means they must be a priority in national recovery planning.

“Local authorities and colleagues across education settings have worked hard together to keep children and young people safe and engaged in learning while schools and colleges have been closed to the majority of pupils. We expect all learners will need some level of support with their education when they return, those who were already facing challenges are likely to need more than others. The recently announced catch-up funding for schools is welcome, but this scheme overlooks the support young people attending colleges will need to get back to education and normality. We hope this report encourages government to introduce plans for colleges as a matter of urgency.

“Covid-19 has changed the way local authorities are working but it has not changed our commitment to meeting the needs of children and young people. Multi agency safeguarding arrangements remain in place and councils continue to work closely with our partners in education and the police to keep children safe from harm and protect their welfare. Referrals to social care dropped during lockdown but they are beginning to pick up again. Harms facing children and young people did not simply disappear over this period, and we expect them to become more visible as restrictions continue to ease and schools and other settings raise safeguarding concerns with us. The NHS has passed the peak of its response, but it is only just beginning in children’s services. This is when we will need the most financial support from government to ensure children and young people get the right support at the right time.”

ENDS


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ADCS responds to two new government announcements

Responding to two new government announcements Jenny Coles, ADCS President, said:

On Monday 29 June the Prime Minister announced additional investment for new school buildings and funding for repairs and upgrades

“The news that £1 billion will be invested in 50 new school building projects is welcome. This will help to create new school places at a time when there is a national shortage of places and Covid-19 is further highlighting the issue of space in our classrooms. Local authorities have a critically important role in identifying where new school places are needed and, crucially, where they are not. Schools opening miles away from where they are needed can have unintended consequences locally, placing further pressure on already overstretched transport budgets for example. The news of further funding to address the condition of schools and colleges is a welcome acknowledgement of the dilapidated school estate, it is estimated that £6.7 billion repairs are needed across England’s 21,000 schools. We hope this is the first step in a strategic investment programme which aims to ensure all children are educated in an environment which supports and encourages their learning. We await further details of the programme in the Autumn Spending Review.”

ENDS

On Tuesday 30 June the Prime Minister delivered a speech setting out plans to rebuild the UK in the wake of Covid-19

“Children are this country’s future and the citizens of tomorrow; our long term economic recovery from Covid-19 very much depends on how we as a nation care, support and invest in them, now and in the future. Therefore, it is crucially important that children are at the centre of this government’s Covid-19 recovery strategy. Children and young people have sacrificed a lot for the health of us all and they will be living with the consequences of a potential economic crisis for longer than we will. The government has the opportunity to put its arms around children in a way that generates improved outcomes for them and their communities over a longer timeframe. To achieve this, beyond investment in jobs, hospitals, and roads we need proper, sustainable and equitable investment in the full range of services children rely on.

“We are pleased the Prime Minister used his speech to underline his commitment to tackling this country’s great unresolved challenges, this must include urgently tackling appalling levels of child and family poverty which is being exacerbated by the current health crisis.”

ENDS


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Comment: MoJ Expert Panel’s report on harm in family courts

Commenting on the Ministry of Justice Expert Panel’s report on Harm in the Family Courts Sara Tough, Chair of the ADCS Families, Communities and Young People Policy Committee, said:

“Children and families who have experienced or live with domestic abuse both need and deserve proper protection and support. This report provides important insights into the family courts and the systemic issues that can mean child and adult victims of domestic abuse are not always protected from further harm, in private law proceedings. While the Panel heard evidence of some good practice and positive outcomes, it also found a system under increased pressure, lacking the resources it needs to effectively identify and respond to domestic abuse. Other issues include children’s voices going unheard, allegations being minimised or ignored and victims being retraumatised through cross examination or repeatedly being taken back to court by perpetrators.

“The report places a welcome spotlight on domestic abuse and the experiences of victims, and the Panel suggests ways to improve the system. Amongst the recommendations for change is a call for additional investment in perpetrator programmes and specialist support services which will benefit children experiencing domestic abuse and their families.

“Domestic abuse affects millions of men and women each year and it remains the most common reason children and families come to the attention of children’s social care. It can have a devastating and long-term impact on children’s lives and outcomes. ADCS is concerned that the Domestic Abuse Bill in its current form does not reflect the scale, reach and severity of this issue and the funding package on offer falls far short of what is needed to turn the tide on this epidemic. There needs to be greater focus on children’s rights and needs and early support for victims and perpetrators to prevent domestic abuse occurring in the first place. Covid-19 is exacerbating issues many children and families face, such as parental conflict and domestic abuse, therefore, tackling this issue has never been more important or urgent.”

ENDS


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Comment: Tribute to Dave Hill, ADCS President 2016/17

Sarah Caton, ADCS Chief Officer, said:

“I was absolutely devastated to hear the sad news that Dave Hill, a dear friend, colleague and former ADCS President has passed away.

“It’s hard to find the right words to pay tribute to Dave in a way that he truly deserves, particularly because he has made such an enormous difference to the lives of so many throughout his long career in local government. He was a kind and compassionate man who was deeply committed to improving the lived experiences and outcomes of all children and young people, particularly children in care. A big man with a big heart and an even bigger talent, Dave was a charismatic and inspirational leader. Dave’s presidential year was unique and will always be remembered for its focus on ‘love’, based on the simple premise that all children deserve to be and to feel loved by those who care for and work with them. Dave also cared passionately about changing the narrative about the care system in England. As Chief Officer of ADCS, I had the privilege and the pleasure of working closely with Dave when he was President and he will be sadly missed. What I wouldn’t give now for a bear hug embrace from the marvellous Dave Hill.

“Our heartfelt sympathies and our love go to Dave’s wife Jo and his daughters Laurel and Lydia. On Friday, we’ll be re-running the blog Dave wrote in April 2016 when he became ADCS President. Entitled ‘what’s love got to do with it?’ it’s classic Dave and I hope a fitting tribute to our dear friend. It’s a huge loss for us all and a huge loss for the sector.”

ENDS


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Comment: Free school meals announcement

Responding to the announcement on free school meals earlier this week Jenny Coles, ADCS President, said:

“No child or young person should be regularly going hungry and we know that school holidays are difficult for vulnerable families, including those who rely on free school meals. The government has made the right call in providing vouchers over the summer period, but this is a temporary solution to a much bigger problem: far too many families are forced to make tough decisions every day between eating, paying bills or keeping warm. A comprehensive plan to tackle both the symptoms and root causes of poverty is long overdue. The government must lead this endeavour from the front as a matter of urgency.

“There are so many unknowns at this time. We’d also urge the government to undertake a rapid review of the voucher scheme to inform any future arrangements either in the new school year or planning for responses to future pandemics.”

ENDS


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Comment: Covid-19 ‘catch up’ package for pupils

Responding to the announcement of a £1bn Covid-19 ‘catch up’ package to tackle the impact of lost teaching time Jenny Coles, ADCS President said:

“Children have sacrificed months of learning for the health of us all. Despite the best efforts of parents and carers, children will have had very different experiences of home schooling, it’s easier to learn when you have a quiet space to study and access to the internet, for example. We expect all learners will need some level of support with their education when they return to school, therefore, we are pleased the government has announced a funding package for this. However, we call on the government to announce plans for early years and colleges both crucial stages in children and young people’s development.

“The Prime Minister has reiterated his ambition to get all children back to school in September. It’s important to recognise that schools have worked incredibly hard to remain open for vulnerable and key worker children throughout this difficult period whilst simultaneously planning for the safe return of more children. There needs to be adequate time to plan carefully for a return to school in September and a clear acknowledgement that “back up” plans may be required for classrooms and online learning if a full return is not possible. It is vitally important that the government works with local authorities and school leaders in the coming weeks to work towards solutions where for example space or home to school transport is an issue. Local authorities continue to work with schools to get all pupils back to school as soon as is safely possible, but September is just around the corner so we urge government to quickly provide further details of their plans to ensure local authorities, schools and their staff have enough time to get organised.”

ENDS


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Comment on racism and discrimination

Commenting on racism and discrimination Jenny Coles, ADCS President, said:

“Racism and discrimination have no place in our communities and cannot be tolerated. In recent weeks, anti-racist demonstrations have taken place against the backdrop of a global health pandemic which emerging evidence suggests is disproportionately affecting people from black and ethnic minorities, and the poorest households, highlighting again the stark inequalities in our society.

“As leaders of children’s services, we have a responsibility to recognise and shine a light on social injustices and the barriers faced by children, including particular challenges facing children and young people from black and minority ethnic groups. Almost three years on from the Lammy review, disproportionality in the youth justice system remains a concern so too does the overrepresentation of minority ethnic children in our care. Pushing government and others to better understand and address the underlying reasons for these disparities and why pupils from certain ethnic backgrounds are more likely to be excluded than their peers is key to challenging systemic inequalities. The Care Review presents an opportunity to address some of the complex issues in the system so we need to get on with it.

“In terms of the workforce, it’s important that it reflects our local communities and that the children we work with see that a career in children’s services is not beyond their reach, yet there are not enough black and ethnic minority directors across the country. Supporting anyone who is working in children’s services to progress to senior and leadership roles, if they want to, continues to be a priority for local authorities and the Association.

“We each have a responsibility to stand up for change and to challenge ourselves and each other to do more if we are to achieve a fairer, more tolerant and equal society.”

ENDS


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Comment: UASC funding announcement

Jenny Coles, ADCS President, said:

“Unaccompanied asylum seeking children and young people have experienced a lot in their short lives, many will have fled their homes and families in search of safety and risked their lives along the way. They can be extremely vulnerable and need additional support to help them overcome the trauma they have experienced.

“Local authorities take our responsibilities for unaccompanied asylum seeking children seriously. We welcome this uplift in funding from the Home Office after a four-year review process but there is still a long way to go before we are fully funded for this important work. Though the uplifted rates may help re-invigorate the voluntary transfer scheme, many challenges remain, particularly the availability of suitable placements and the time it can take for the Home Office to make decisions on a child’s asylum claim. It is a good thing that local authorities looking after higher numbers of unaccompanied asylum seeking children, at or above 0.07% of their child population, will benefit from uplifted rates for under 17’s, but care leavers continue to be excluded from the 0.07% threshold which means larger councils may not benefit from these uplifted rates. In recent weeks a steady flow of unaccompanied children and young people have continued to arrive here after perilous journeys and there is still no clear direction or support from government about testing and quarantine in these circumstances.”

ENDS


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ADCS response to new IPPR analysis on poverty

Jenny Coles, ADCS President, said:

“New analysis, from the Institute for Public Policy Research, estimates that hundreds of thousands of children will be plunged into poverty by the end of this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, adding to already appalling levels of child and family poverty in the UK. This is not something we should accept or normalise, neither is continued government inaction on this important issue.

“It is clear that the current crisis is exacerbating the challenges many children and families were already facing, including overcrowding at home, hunger and insecure employment and many more are becoming vulnerable for the first time. The government has loosened its purse strings to support businesses and workers through the pandemic, we welcome this but this does not mean job done. A clear child poverty reduction strategy is urgently need. Without this children and families will be unable to play a full part in society and childhoods will be damaged. It’s time for change.”

ENDS


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Comment: Social work together campaign

Rachael Wardell, Chair of the ADCS Workforce Development Policy Committee, said:

“Social workers make a profound difference to the lives of vulnerable children and their families. It is becoming increasingly clear that the pandemic is exacerbating many of the challenges children and families face so having enough high quality social workers has never been more important. We are thankful to everyone who has temporarily rejoined the social work register, via the Social Work Together campaign, to support the national effort against coronavirus. This initiative has helpfully increased the number of available social workers. However, most local authorities have responded to any workforce shortages by redeploying their existing staff to fill gaps because they are already familiar with local arrangements and systems. Therefore, it is unsurprising that relatively few social workers have been recruited by local authorities through this route. Moreover, councils have not seen the level of absences due to staff getting ill, isolating or shielding that we initially feared. That is not to say this additional capacity won’t be needed in the near future, as we anticipate children’s services facing our own peak in activity. During lockdown, referrals to children’s social care initially reduced but they are starting to pick up again and we expect a considerable increase in demand as restrictions begin to ease and children have greater contact with schools and other settings that are likely to identify and raise safeguarding concerns. We are also concerned about the potentially significant impact of ‘test and trace’ on local staffing levels if high numbers of social workers are required to undertake 14 days social isolation after being in contact with people who test positive for Covid-19.”

ENDS


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Comment: Covid-19 test and trace system

Charlotte Ramsden, ADCS Vice President, said:

“The government’s ‘test and trace’ system to monitor Covid-19 outbreaks could have a potentially significant impact right across the children’s workforce, including staff in children’s homes and social work teams, if whole teams have to self-isolate for 14 days after having contact with someone with Covid-19. The Association continues to raise issues around the sustainability of the workforce and the impact on children and young people with the DfE.”

ENDS


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Covid-19 is building future pressures for children’s services

On 1 April I became ADCS President and I feel privileged to be able to represent colleagues and peers in this way.

Directors of children’s services are familiar with leading services in challenging circumstances but the pandemic is the biggest leadership challenge many of us will ever face. I am proud of the way the sector has risen to this challenge, keeping key services going and meeting the needs of children and their families, albeit in new, virtual and innovative ways. It’s been great to see collaborative working in these unprecedented times. There will be lessons and new ways of working we can take forward from the crisis. Councils continue to do what they do best acting as leaders of their local place, and we are seeing the reaffirmation of strong partnerships between councils and schools.

Our work as ADCS has at its core a country that works for all children and a top priority for us this year is maintaining visibility on the need to ‘level up’ society and make it more inclusive, so that children and young people feel a greater sense of belonging at home, in their community and in school. Urging government to address properly several longstanding issues affecting children’s lives including government inaction on child and family poverty and the woeful underfunding of our overstretched services remain high on our agenda. The current crisis is building future financial pressures for children’s services and councils are expressing concerns about their ability to balance budgets when this is over. Recent funding announcements are welcome, however more funding will be needed to help councils cope with the additional need for our help and support Covid-19 will undoubtedly create.

The pandemic has highlighted existing fragilities in the system, such as a shortage of placement options for children in our care, care leavers and children in need of specialist help and support. Working with government departments and our partners towards a national sufficiency strategy of placements for these cohorts is another priority for us this year. It’s our collective duty to find safe, suitable places for children and young people to live and to meet their needs in a holistic way so that they thrive, promoting important connections with their family and friends and providing help and support at the earliest opportunity is part of this.

Local authorities and their partners are already doing work around recovery thinking about how best to support children and families on the other side of this crisis. I fear the impact will be most profound for children and young people who are facing months of lost socialisation and learning due to school closures, concerns about exams and their futures and for some social distancing and lockdown measures will be exacerbating existing anxieties and mental health problems. When restrictions are lifted, it’s likely we will see huge spikes in demand for children’s social care, more children coming into care, increased incidences of children living with parental substance misuse, domestic abuse and parental mental ill-health and greater demand for child and adolescent mental health services. We remain committed to meeting the wide-ranging needs of children and their families and it falls on all of us to ensure children don’t pay the heaviest price.

I look forward to my year leading the Association, albeit on a virtual stage for the time being, and to working together with government and partners in the sector to ensure children are at the heart of decisions that affect their lives.

Jenny Coles, ADCS President 2020/21 and Director of Children’s Services, Hertfordshire County Council.

This column first appeared on the LGC website on 14 May 2020 | https://www.lgcplus.com/politics/lgc-briefing/covid-crisis-is-building-future-childrens-services-pressures-14-05-2020/


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ADCS Policy Priorities and recovery from Covid-19

On 1 April I became ADCS President and I feel privileged to be able to represent colleagues and peers in this way.

Directors of children’s services are familiar with leading services in challenging circumstances but the pandemic is the biggest leadership challenge many of us will ever face. I am proud of the way the sector has risen to this challenge, keeping key services going and meeting the needs of children and their families, albeit in new, virtual and innovative ways. It’s been great to see collaborative working in these unprecedented times. There will be lessons and new ways of working we can take forward from the crisis. Councils continue to do what they do best acting as leaders of their local place, and we are seeing the reaffirmation of strong partnerships between councils and schools.

Our work as ADCS has at its core a country that works for all children and a top priority for us this year is maintaining visibility on the need to ‘level up’ society and make it more inclusive, so that children and young people feel a greater sense of belonging at home, in their community and in school. Urging government to address properly several longstanding issues affecting children’s lives including government inaction on child and family poverty and the woeful underfunding of our overstretched services remain high on our agenda. The current crisis is building future financial pressures for children’s services and councils are expressing concerns about their ability to balance budgets when this is over. Recent funding announcements are welcome, however more funding will be needed to help councils cope with the additional need for our help and support Covid-19 will undoubtedly create.

The pandemic has highlighted existing fragilities in the system, such as a shortage of placement options for children in our care, care leavers and children in need of specialist help and support. Working with government departments and our partners towards a national sufficiency strategy of placements for these cohorts is another priority for us this year. It’s our collective duty to find safe, suitable places for children and young people to live and to meet their needs in a holistic way so that they thrive, promoting important connections with their family and friends and providing help and support at the earliest opportunity is part of this.

Local authorities and their partners are already doing work around recovery thinking about how best to support children and families on the other side of this crisis. I fear the impact will be most profound for children and young people who are facing months of lost socialisation and learning due to school closures, concerns about exams and their futures and for some social distancing and lockdown measures will be exacerbating existing anxieties and mental health problems. When restrictions are lifted, it’s likely we will see huge spikes in demand for children’s social care, more children coming into care, increased incidences of children living with parental substance misuse, domestic abuse and parental mental ill-health and greater demand for child and adolescent mental health services. We remain committed to meeting the wide-ranging needs of children and their families and it falls on all of us to ensure children don’t pay the heaviest price.

I look forward to my year leading the Association, albeit on a virtual stage for the time being, and to working together with government and partners in the sector to ensure children are at the heart of decisions that affect their lives.

Jenny Coles, ADCS President 2020/21 and Director of Children’s Services, Hertfordshire County Council.


This column first appeared in the LGC


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ADCS response to OCC report on vulnerable children

Charlotte Ramsden, ADCS Vice President, said:

“We are concerned about the impact of Covid-19 on children and young people, particularly the most vulnerable. It’s important to recognise that lockdown measures will be affecting children in different ways and some who we would not usually consider as vulnerable will be presenting with new needs that we will need to meet, plus some who were already vulnerable will be facing additional challenges both now and in the future. We welcome recent funding announcements for children’s social care, but it’s likely more will be needed.

“Local authorities are reporting referrals to children’s social care as being lower than usual which is an obvious worry for us, but we are absolutely clear that where children and families need help and support we are here for them. Social workers are prioritising face to face contact with children most at risk, many schools and early years settings are keeping in touch with those they actively support and local safeguarding partnerships have been and continue to work hard to raise awareness of hidden harm. Our multi-agency partnership work remains in place but in new and challenging circumstances. Sources of information and advice are available if someone is worried about a child and we would encourage people to make use of that if needed.

“We understand many parents and carers will be worried about sending children to school because of the pandemic. Local authorities remain committed to increasing the number of vulnerable children attending school, where children aren’t attending school social workers and schools are keeping in touch with them and working hard to encourage attendance where safe to do so.

“Local authorities and their partners remain absolutely committed to keeping children and young people safe from harm and protecting their welfare. New, virtual and innovative ways of supporting children and young people that keep them at the heart of services have sprung up at pace across the country and this is something to be proud of.”

ENDS


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Comment: children’s social guidance new statutory...

Jenny Coles, ADCS President, said:

“Keeping children safe and protecting their welfare remains a priority for all local authorities during the pandemic. The Association is working closely with the government to address the challenges children and families face and to find sensible and, crucially, safe solutions to those we face with a reduced workforce, rapidly embedding new ways of working and what this means for our ability to meet all of our duties at this unprecedented time.

“We recognise the concerns raised about the statutory instrument affording some flexibilities to local authorities due to the outbreak of Covid-19, however, it’s important to recognise that all local authorities and their staff will continue working hard to ensure that we can fulfil our statutory responsibilities to children and young people, particularly the most vulnerable. The best interests of children and families remain at the heart of any decision made by local authorities.”

ENDS


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Jenny Coles Inaugural Presidential Address

Jenny Coles inaugural Presidential address

Jenny Coles became the ADCS President on 1 April 2020. It has not been possible for Jenny to make her inaugural speech in person at a reception to mark the start of her Presidency, instead Jenny has written an inaugural address and prepared a brief video message. Jenny’s address sets out the Association’s policy priorities for the Presidential year 2020/21. Our thanks to Vicky Ford MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families and to Jonathan Slater, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education for their supportive words which can be found below.

View Jenny Coles Presidential address (pdf)

To view the supporting ADCS press release, click here.

Video message from Jenny Coles


Message from Vicky Ford MP​

“I’m delighted to welcome Jenny Coles as President of ADCS and Charlotte Ramsden as Vice President. The work that you and your colleagues do couldn’t be more important at this extraordinary time, which poses heightened levels of risk to many of our most vulnerable children. I want to say thank you to all who work in Children’s Social Care for your continued commitment and the quality of what you do, to DCSs for your leadership and to Rachel Dickinson for working so effectively in partnership with the Department over the last year. I look forward to a similarly strong relationship with Jenny and Charlotte in the coming year.”


Video message from Jonathan Slater


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Jenny Coles Inaugural Address PR

“I hope Covid-19 makes us a kinder country, a country that works for all children”

Today, Thursday 23 April, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, published the written inaugural address of its new President for 2020/21, Jenny Coles, Director of Children’s Services, Hertfordshire County Council.

Jenny Coles used her address to outline the Association’s policy priorities for the coming year, with maintaining “visibility on the need to level up…society to make it more inclusive” so that children and young people, particularly the most vulnerable, feel a greater sense of belonging at home, in school and in their community topping the list.

Reflecting on Covid-19, Jenny Coles paid tribute to local government staff, public services and local politicians “for their amazing work” and acknowledged that there are “even greater expectations of local government” than usual because of the outbreak. The pandemic will likely “plunge even more children and their families into poverty” as many more families experience the “wholly inadequate provisions of the welfare state.” Keeping “poverty high on everyone’s agenda” will be a continuing priority for ADCS in the coming year, she said.

She went on to highlight some of the challenges that children and young people might face when we return to “benign times” and the pressures being “stored up” for already “severely stretched and woefully underfunded” children’s services. The implications of Covid-19 will be “most profound” for children and young people who are facing months of lost socialisation and learning due to school closures, for some social isolation will be “compounding and exacerbating their worries and anxieties”, she said. It’s possible we’ll see “huge spikes in demand across the children’s social care spectrum”, a backlog of new care applications and more children needing to come into care as well as increased incidences of children living with one or more of the ‘trigger trio’, parental substance misuse, domestic abuse and parental mental ill-health resulting in “even greater burdens on child and adolescent mental health services” which were “almost at breaking point” before Covid-19, she said. Local authorities and their partners will be grappling with these things and more as we continue our work around recovery.

That said, we’ve also seen the “extraordinary outpouring of gratitude for frontline carers” and the ‘hidden frontline’, from our social workers and foster carers to residential children’s homes workers and staff in residential school settings. We have seen clearly the vital role of the local authority as a leader of place “building, maintaining and strengthening local relationships in local communities” and the “reaffirmation of the strong partnerships that exist between the local authority and schools”, she said. She continued, “I sincerely hope the spirit of working together continues long after the pandemic is over in the best interests of communities but, crucially, in the best interests of children and young people… I also hope that the DfE will review its own internal structural arrangements to eradicate the artificial divide, which only exists in central government, between education and schools and children’s social care.”

On placements for children in care

“I am more determined than ever to work closely with DfE, other government departments and with providers to achieve a national sufficiency strategy of placements for children in care…I include in this the imperative of resolving our national and long-standing shortage of tier 4 placements for our most complex children and young people…This is not solely about providing a decent, safe placement in which to live, it’s about understanding wider support needs too – staying connected with family and friends, emotional support, physical and mental health support, an educational placement that encourages a sense of belonging. If the state is going to take a child or young person into care, we have a collective responsibility to try to meet a child’s needs holistically…Similarly, I am determined to ensure that a national placement sufficiency strategy considers carefully the accommodation and support needs of care leavers.”

On the care review

“It will be important for the Care Review to have a sharply focussed, clear aim of improving outcomes for children in care and care leavers. The aim of the review cannot be clouded by any sense of seeking to reduce the number of children in care per se; the trick is to make sure we have the right children in care, at the right time, in the right placement with the right support. Necessarily this will involve a careful look at the host of issues associated with ‘placements at distance’. In recent times we have seen an increased use of placements at distance, indeed we’ve seen increased use of unregulated and unregistered provision. To state the obvious if I may, both phenomena are driven by a lack of placement sufficiency in localities… I want to say again here that semi independent accommodation usually used by and for care leavers may be unregulated by Ofsted, but it is not the wild west where children are abandoned to their fate. These placements are locally monitored. There is some poor practice that we absolutely don’t want to see, but unless the state accepts that it (not just local authorities) has a role to play in ensuring placement sufficiency across the country then local authorities will continue to be stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

On children’s services funding

“The announcement of extra funding for children (and adult) social care is welcome. But I just want to say loud and clear, this is not yet job done for children’s services…We must work towards a sustainable long term funding settlement for children’s services. Before the pandemic, children’s services were woefully under-funded and stretched to the limit. The current crisis is significantly exacerbating that inadequate baseline of funding. The resources needed during the nation’s recovery from the pandemic will be eye-wateringly large. I’m sure that the government will invest in its citizens’ futures. I want to see unprecedented levels of investment in our children’s futures, please.

“We have a government with a large mandate…This gives the government the opportunity to change its approach – to stop chasing the next shiny new thing and instead invest in children’s services in a way that generates improved outcomes for children and families over a longer timeframe. Short term, single issue funding pots waste precious time in endless bidding rounds for small amounts of money when our core services for children and families are under-funded. I hope that the government will see that it cannot again allow public services to be denuded in the way they have been over the last decade.”

ENDS

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.


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Comment: new school attendance data

Commenting on new school attendance data Jenny Coles, ADCS President, said:

“Data published yesterday by the Department for Education shows how many children and teachers attended education settings in the four weeks after the government announced schools would close for all children, apart from for our most vulnerable pupils and children of key workers.

“The data does show pupil attendance has gradually fallen from over 3% on 23 March to just under 1% on 6 April, it is encouraging to see that although pupil attendance was at its lowest during the Easter holidays there has been a very slight upturn in vulnerable children attending schools. However, it is clearly still a concern for us that not all children who are eligible are benefiting from attending school.

“Information for parents and carers which can be found on the DfE’s website states that vulnerable children who have a social worker are “expected to attend school”, unless they have underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk than others. The Secretary of State also made clear in his speech over the weekend that schools remain open for them and children of key workers. Local authorities and schools will continue to work with families to encourage children to attend where they are entitled to. Social workers are in touch with families directly so we hope to see numbers increase with time.”

ENDS


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ADCS responds to a weekend of new government announcements

Responding to a weekend of new government announcements, Jenny Coles, President of ADCS, said:

On Friday 17 April, the government published new guidance on financial support for early years and childcare providers:

“Both leaders of children’s services and early years providers have been clear that the level of funding attached to the government’s subsidised child care offer falls short of covering actual running costs, as evidenced by providers charging parents and carers top ups for food and activities, withdrawing from the scheme or going out of business. From the very outset of its pandemic response, the government recognised that access to reliable childcare was essential for key workers. Settings have remained open so that teachers, doctors, nurses and social workers could continue with their vital work and the most vulnerable children could retain some certainty and stability.

“Although we, like the government, are alive to the issue of double funding, such a significant change in official guidance at such a late stage may serve to push greater numbers of providers and settings into insolvency resulting in a chronic shortage of places once restrictions are eased. Access to childcare will be essential to rebuilding the economy, we urge the government to engage with us and providers to understand the impact of this changing advice in both the short and longer term.”

On Saturday 18 April the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government announced additional funding for local government:

“We welcome the provision of a further £1.6 billion in emergency funding for local authorities over the weekend. Covid-19 is affecting every area of our work and every single community so this money will contribute to our continued response to this crisis and our efforts to provide help and support to the most vulnerable children, young people and families.”

On Sunday 19 April the Secretary of State for Education announced a suite of measures relating to his Department’s remit:

“The news that laptops, tablets and internet facilities are in the process of being procured for the benefit of learners who do not have access to this equipment in their home is welcome. This will help them to access the new learning resources from the BBC and Oak National Academy, which were also announced by the Secretary of State for Education. We will continue to work with the Secretary of State, his staff and school leaders on the logistics of distribution in the coming days and weeks.

“The majority of children are not being seen regularly by teachers, school nurses, GPs, dentists or sports coaches due to lockdown, this means they and their needs are less visible. The government has provided £1.6 million to the NSPCC to boost access to its helpline for adults who are worried about the safety and wellbeing of a child or young person. Any steps to raise both the profile and awareness of the risk of harm some children face is welcome, it’s more important than ever that communities and neighbours look out for each other and for children’s best interests. I know local safeguarding partnerships have been and continue to work hard to raise awareness of hidden harm and sources of information and advice if someone is worried about a child.”

ENDS


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Comment: Covid-19 and safeguarding

Jenny Coles, ADCS President, said:

“Covid-19 is impacting on all of us, every family, every community and every public service. Local authorities have a central role in protecting our most vulnerable children and families so we are paying particular attention to how the outbreak is affecting them and working tirelessly to ensure they are safe and provided for.

“While some schools and other education settings may be closed, others remain open to our most vulnerable pupils and for this we are grateful but clearly it is concerning if the number of vulnerable pupils attending schools is lower than hoped for. Beyond education, schools provide a vital safety net for our most vulnerable learners and have a key role in identifying safeguarding concerns early. Local authorities are committed to increasing the number of vulnerable children attending school, social workers are in touch with vulnerable families directly and via their schools to encourage children to attend school where they are eligible and we hope to see numbers increase with time.

“Local authorities are prioritising face to face contact with those most at risk but we are aware that usual routes of safeguarding referrals are affected by the current lockdown. Locally systems are in place to ensure children are protected but now more than ever it’s important that communities and neighbours are looking out for each other where possible, and if a family needs some additional help in these unprecedented times, contact should be made with the local authority as soon as possible so this can be arranged.

“As ADCS, we are involved in daily discussions with the government to help find sensible practicable solutions to the challenges our members face, keeping children’s best interests centre stage.”

ENDS


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Comment: Covid-19 and vulnerable children

Commenting on a Newsnight feature on Covid-19 and vulnerable children, Rachel Dickinson, ADCS Immediate Past President, said:

“All councils will be dealing with the outbreak of Covid-19 by prioritising the needs of the most vulnerable. That said, this pandemic is shining a light, and in some cases exacerbating, existing fragilities in the system, such as a shortage of placement options for children in our care and longstanding challenges to recruit and retain enough social workers across the country. Our teams are working round the clock to ensure children and young people are safe and provided for but there are some very significant and practical challenges we’re working hard to overcome. Covid-19 is affecting every area of service, every team and every community. As social workers, and other key staff fall ill, or need to self-isolate, local authorities will redeploy existing qualified staff where possible and where it’s safe to do so, prioritising face to face work with children most at risk. The new Coronavirus Act contains provisions to make it easier for returners to take up social work roles and other key partners and agencies, such as Ofsted, are offering us access to their staff too.

“Of course, it is very worrying to hear that in some situations children are struggling to contact their social workers or afford basic necessities like food, this is not what we want to see. It’s vital that the needs of vulnerable children and families, including children in and on the edge of care, care leavers as well as families living in poverty continue to be met and that they are safe and provided for during the outbreak, all of those things are being worked through locally as fast as possible. The Association continues to log issues raised by our members in relation to Covid-19 and feed them into our regular discussions with the UK government to ensure that the needs and rights of children, young people and families remain high on the national agenda.”

ENDS


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Comment: Covid-19 and pressures on the workforce

Rachael Wardell, Chair of the ADCS Workforce Development Policy Committee, said:

“These are unprecedented times and the situation changes frequently so local authorities are working with all partners to build resilience and sustainability of our workforce and ensure that the needs of the children and families we work with are met. Local authorities were quick to respond to the risk around Covid-19 and mobilised the majority of their staff to work safely from home in line with the latest public health guidance, prioritising face to face work in situations where children are most at risk.

“In terms of specific workforce pressures on local authorities, these are similar to all other organisations working directly with the public, namely how we can continue to provide essential services as members of our workforce fall ill or need to self isolate, including our social workers.

“Given that we’re not able to recruit and retain enough social workers nationally already, any additional workforce shortages as a result of Covid-19 will be challenging. However, every local authority is following their business continuity plans which include contingency arrangements should this situation arise. Nationally, ADCS has been in discussion with Social Work England which is increasing the number of available social workers by inviting social workers who have left the register in the past two years to rejoin where they are eligible. Locally, most local authorities are preparing for and responding to workforce shortages by redeploying the qualified staff we already have to different roles where possible and where it’s safe to do so, as well as using agency social workers if necessary.”

ENDS


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Comment: Covid-19

Rachel Dickinson, ADCS President, said:

“Responding to emergency situations is one of most important things that local authorities do, and all councils will be dealing with the outbreak of Covid-19 as they would any other emergency by prioritising the needs of the most vulnerable. Local authorities will be in contact with their residents, providers, schools and others with updates on keeping themselves and others safe and to ensure they are aware of the latest government and public health advice available to us. It has been helpful having public health within local government as we respond to the outbreak.

“Clearly, this is a fastmoving situation. We recognise that guidance can’t be available to cover every situation, so it’s important that local authorities follow their business continuity plans in relation to essential services and exercise local judgement in response to local and individual circumstances, within the context of national guidance. It’s vital that the needs of vulnerable children and families, including children in and on the edge of care, continue to be met and that they are safe during the outbreak, all of those things are being worked through locally.

“ADCS is logging issues raised by our members in relation to Covid-19 and feeding them into our regular discussions with the Department for Education to inform government thinking and planning. One of the issues that has been raised with us is whether Ofsted inspections of social care settings will be put on hold to allow local authorities to concentrate on their local responses to the outbreak, and we are pleased the Secretary of State has confirmed all routine inspections of schools, further education, early years and social care settings will be temporarily suspended. We are also feeding issues into the Department around children’s residential settings and the use of emergency social worker registrants in response to potential workforce shortages as a result of Covid-19. Given the placements market for children in care is already overstretched we are working closely with all relevant stakeholders to ensure children are provided for. We will continue to work with the Department to try and ensure that the government’s advice becomes more tailored over time.”

ENDS


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ADCS response to the introduction of the Domestic Abuse Bill

Jenny Coles, ADCS Vice President, said:

“We welcome proposals to improve vital support for victims of domestic abuse and their families, however, too many of the measures outlined in the Domestic Abuse Bill are reactive rather than preventative. Further enhancements to the Bill will be necessary if we are to turn the tide on this endemic problem - we are committed to working with government and others to this end.

“Upwards of two million men and women experience domestic abuse each year and it remains the most common reason children and families come to the attention of children’s social care. The Bill seeks to increase the reporting of this issue yet the necessary support services for victims, their families and perpetrators are lacking or entirely absent. Similarly, the funding package on offer does not reflect the scale, reach and severity of this issue given recent research puts the annual social and economic costs of domestic abuse at £66 billion. It’s the ultimate invest to save case – preventing domestic abuse in the first place will save money but, crucially, it will save lives. Women’s refuges are amongst the many vital services that have been affected by austerity, it’s important that any new duty on local authorities to provide accommodation is fully funded by government if it is to have the desired impact.”

ENDS


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Annual Conference 2020 FAQs Booking Information

Booking Information FAQ

When is the conference?

For directors of children’s services and chief executives of alternative delivery models, the conference opens with registration and lunch from 12noon on Wednesday 8 July. The conference opens to all members from 11am on Thursday 9 July, with registration open from 8:30am. The conference will conclude on Friday 10 July at approximately 1.30pm. A take-away lunch will be provided.

Why should I book?

The conference, exclusively for ADCS members, provides a unique opportunity to get together to share best practice, learning and experiences from across the sector. Unlike other events, we don’t have sponsors or exhibitors at our conference, allowing plenty of opportunities to network with colleagues outside of the main programme. If the conference appeals but you are not currently an ADCS member, please go to the website for further membership information.

Who is speaking?

The conference will include a series of keynote addresses, plenary sessions and workshops. To ensure the programme is topical and focuses on the key issues facing children’s services colleagues, it will not be available until closer to the conference. However, regular updates will be posted on the conference pages on the ADCS website and via the weekly ADCS ebulletin sent to all members.

What workshop sessions are there?

Again, workshops will be topical. Approximately three weeks prior to the conference, registered delegates will receive workshop information, encouraging them to select which workshops they wish to attend. Places will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.There will be an opportunity at the conference to sign up to workshops, however, it is possible that some may be full by this time.

What is included in the price?

As the conference is primarily a residential event, we encourage members to stay overnight to make the most of the networking opportunities available. In addition to refreshments, lunch, and attendance at plenary and workshop sessions, the residential package includes bed and breakfast at The Midland hotel plus evening drinks reception and dinner.

Non-residential options are available.

If you wish to make your own alternative accommodation arrangements, we advise doing so as early as possible as Manchester is expected to be very busy during the week of conference and hotels will fill up.

How do I book?

All booking forms, completed with the delegate’s consent, should be returned to rebecca.denny@adcs.org.uk. You will receive an email confirming your booking and an invoice for payment will follow shortly after.

If you would like to attend the conference as a residential delegate, please return your residential booking form by 1 May to guarantee overnight accommodation at the Midland Hotel. Booking forms must be accompanied by a purchase order (requisition numbers/orders cannot be accepted) as we cannot confirm your conference place without one. If you are booking as an individual, and not through a local authority or Trust, a purchase order is not necessary.

Please be assured that all personal information will be handled in accordance with the EU General Data Protection Regulation 2018.

How do I pay?

Payment must be made by cheque or via BACS; we cannot accept payment by debit card, credit card or LA payment card. Please email rebecca.denny@adcs.org.uk if you have any queries.

What if I need to cancel my place?

Cancellations received after 1 May 2020 will incur a 100% charge. Delegate replacements are permitted up to seven days prior to the conference but the replacement delegate must be an ADCS member.


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ADCS response to the Marmot Review: 10 years on report

Stuart Gallimore, ADCS Immediate Past President, said:

“Ten years on from the landmark Marmot Review, this report delivers a stark judgement on widening social and economic inequalities that are clearly impacting the health, wellbeing and life chances of this nation’s children, families and communities.

“The report finds that the health of the population has deteriorated over the last decade and in this time government policies have heightened inequalities. It states austerity is largely at the root of rising child poverty, growing rates of in-work poverty and falling life expectancies. We repeat our plea to this government that if austerity is going to end let it end for children first.

“Since 2010, funding for local government has been halved but need has not, and the report highlights the most deprived areas have lost the greatest amount. In order to manage demand, local authorities have had to cut or scale back on services that our communities rely on and that reduce future demand, such as children’s centres, youth services and libraries. These services are not just ‘nice to have’ they provide a lifeline to our most vulnerable families before they reach crisis point which is why early help and prevention should be at the heart of all policy decisions made in Whitehall.

“The report is clear that more can, and should, be done locally and nationally to enable everyone to thrive at every stage in their lives. ADCS members stand ready to work with government and others to build a country that works for all children but we cannot do this without proper, sustainable investment in children and the full range of services they rely on. The time for action is now.”

ENDS


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We need a clear national vision and strategy for youth services

The Civil Society Strategy (2018) recognises that youth work can have a transformational impact on young people’s lives but we have not yet seen a clear vision or strategy for youth services. Instead the National Citizenship Service (NCS) has been promoted as a flagship programme. Without a clear policy statement, one which recognises the wider benefits of youth work to both the individual and society, it remains somewhat adrift from wider children’s services, particularly education and schools.

There are many misconceptions about youth work amongst the public and I fear amongst our politicians and their policy makers. Youth work is rooted in the principles of building trusting relationships, improving wellbeing and promoting personal resilience. Sadly, the reach and scale of these services has been restricted by a decade of year-on-year budget cuts in many areas meaning school-based facilities, mobile units and dedicated neighbourhood youth centres have been lost. However, the community and voluntary sectors, including faith groups, continue to step into the space left by statutory services.

Youth workers don’t undertake a 9 to 5 role but make no mistake, they are skilled professionals. They make a valuable contribution to the safety and wellbeing of children and young people at risk of poor outcomes, or harm, by signposting them to information and support. Increasingly they are also engaged in targeted interventions in neighbourhoods experiencing high levels of anti-social behaviour, for example, or working with specific groups e.g. unaccompanied asylum-seeking children or LGBT groups. Detached youth work lends itself well to efforts to identify and disrupt sexual and/or criminal exploitation by targeting known hotspots.

ADCS has consistently called for the development of a comprehensive children’s workforce strategy. The need to recruit and retain the best staff to support children, young people and their families, is more pronounced than ever yet the number of degree-level youth work courses has fallen significantly in recent years. The youth work bursary and the development of a new suite of youth work apprenticeships led by the National Youth Agency are bright spots on the horizon.

The new government has pledged a significant investment in youth services over the course of the next parliament, this is welcome news but it’s important that we get real bang for our buck. The NCS, a four-week programme aimed at 16 and 17-year-olds and it currently accounts for around 95% of the government’s youth services budget. The NCS is now part of the wider youth services offer and participant feedback is largely positive. However, there is more that could be done to ensure NCS contracts dovetail with local youth services and providers reach out to the groups that could benefit from engagement the most. The need to self-fund some costs can be a barrier to some, and more could be done to help children in care and those with special educational needs and/or disabilities engage with the programme. All children and young people deserve the chance to access to good quality youth services, all year round, not just in the summer months.

Rachel Dickinson, ADCS President 2019/20 and Executive Director People at Barnsley Metropolitan Council.

This column first appeared on the CYP Now website on 28 January 2020 | More


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ADCS response to the government consultation on unregulated...

Rachel Dickinson, ADCS President, said:

“No child or young person should live in unsafe, unsuitable accommodation and we should all be doing our utmost to ensure that doesn’t happen. Ahead of the Care Review, this consultation is an opportunity for the government to truly recognise the pressures local authorities face when trying to find the right placement in the right place for a growing number of children and young people in our care and care leavers.

“Unregulated provision is usually used for 16-17-year olds as a stepping stone to independence, and occasionally in emergency situations following a placement breakdown or where a child has very complex needs and no other placement is available. If the proposal to ban the use of unregulated settings for under 16s is implemented, we would be interested to hear about what plans are in place to ensure this does not exacerbate capacity issues the sector is already facing, particularly in relation to finding placements for our most complex children and young people.

“Local authorities have a responsibility to make sure the unregulated provision they are using is suitable and take their own steps to locally regulate and quality assure settings. Examples include auditing staff DBS checks and conducting unannounced visits.

“Some young people thrive in semi-independent living arrangements, where good wrap around support is part of a highly tailored plan. However, we recognise and share the concern that this is not always the case which is why ADCS has been in dialogue with the DfE, Ofsted and others in relation to the use of these settings.

“We will carefully consider the proposals outlined and will be formally responding in due course after discussions with our members.”

ENDS


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ADCS response to the JTAI thematic report on child sexual abuse...

Rachel Dickinson, ADCS President, said:

“Tackling child abuse in all its forms is a priority for all local authorities but as the report states, sexual abuse in the family environment is “a very complex area”. A multiagency response is needed to both uncover and address this abuse and close working with schools, probation, health partners and the police is key. Children do not always feel able to tell someone they are being abused so we need to be aware of the signs and symptoms and how to respond effectively.

“The report notes that this topic remains taboo in families, in communities and amongst frontline professionals working with children and families. We all have a role to play in identifying, preventing and tackling child sexual abuse. The report highlights good practice in the areas that were inspected, however, it’s clear that much more needs to be done by all safeguarding partners to ensure we identify, protect and support children being abused within the family. Any potential national strategy should give specific consideration to boys, disabled children and children from certain ethnic backgrounds who can face additional barriers to disclosure.

“Our ultimate goal must be to prevent child abuse from taking place in the first place. It’s clear from the report that more data and research is needed to better understand the scale and prevalence of child sexual abuse within the family environment as is research on potential perpetrators. Better information sharing between agencies including with health, probation and school nursing staff, who often hold key information and insights, can only be a good thing for children and families. Awareness of child sexual exploitation has developed immeasurably over the past several years, in part because it has been talked about so much. There are future opportunities for a specific focus on child sexual abuse in the family environment through the training of social workers and increasing awareness amongst pupils via Relationships and Sex Education in schools. Beyond all this, we need to urgently tackle the social, cultural and moral issues at the root of this abuse so that all children can lead safe and happy childhoods.”

ENDS


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Comment: OCC report on CAMHS

Charlotte Ramsden, Chair of the ADCS Health, Care and Additional Needs Policy Committee, said:

“Poor mental health and wellbeing can have a lasting impact on a child’s life chances. Yet all too often children face difficulties in accessing services, wait months for support and reach crisis point as a result. The human and financial costs of this are huge and, crucially, this is not in children’s best interests. Our collective aim must be to ensure all children receive the right mental health support, in the right place, at the right time. This means investment in both specialist services for children and young people as well as services that support them earlier and prevent their needs from escalating.

“It is encouraging to see there have been some improvements in children’s mental health services in the past two years, but this does not mean job done. Overall, the quality of services across the country remains inconsistent. Clearly there is much more to do before we have a mental health system that works for all children and young people. Five years on from Future in Mind, now is an appropriate time to bring the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Taskforce together again to take stock and identify what still needs to be done to make the mental health and wellbeing system work for children. They cannot afford to wait a decade for a mental health system that puts them first.”

ENDS


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Comment: elective home education

Gail Tolley, Chair of the ADCS Educational Achievement Policy Committee, said:

“Education is a fundamental right for every child. We recognise that parents have the right to educate their children at home. Where they do, we want it to be a positive experience which equips children with the skills to realise their ambitions and we want to work with parents to achieve this.

“Our survey estimates that approximately 80,000 children were being home educated at some point during the 2018/19 academic year – this is only the children that we know of. Without a duty on parents to notify their local authority as well as powers to see both the child and their learning environment we have no way of knowing that they are receiving a suitable education, they are safe and their social and developmental needs are being met.

“We urge the government to respond to the ‘children not in school’ consultation as quickly as possible to deliver the legislative changes that children both need and deserve. The sooner we get a response the sooner new arrangements can be put in place but it’s absolutely crucial that any new duty to support parents who choose to educate their child at home is fully funded as a new burden.”

ENDS


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Comment: DfE’s adoption announcement

Rachel Dickinson, ADCS President, said:

“Adoption is just one means of securing permanence and stability for children in our care. Foster care, residential care, kinship care or special guardianship arrangements will be the right option for different children and young people. We must not over-simplify what are complex and life changing decisions, what is important is that the needs and best interests of each individual child remains at the forefront of decision making at all times.

“Local authorities will continue to support adoption, where appropriate. Ultimately, the courts will not approve an adoption unless this is the right decision for the child. ADCS would like to see a broadening of the debate about adoption to fully recognise the value of all forms of permanence and consider the care system as a whole.

“We welcome additional funding for Regional Adoption Agencies and the extension of the Adoption Support Fund, this will help us recruit more adopters and provide support for adopted children, children living with special guardians and their families. Given that most children in care live with foster carers the recruitment and retention of high quality foster carers who are able to meet the wide ranging needs of children in care is worthy of further focus, and crucially, investment from government too.”

ENDS


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Comment: separation of siblings in care

Charlotte Ramsden, Chair of the ADCS Health, Care and Additional Needs Policy Committee said:

“Local authorities work hard to keep siblings who are in care together wherever we can and recognise the importance of those relationships. There are many different reasons why this isn’t always possible including some situations where a child’s needs cannot be met with their sibling due to emotional or behavioural concerns or risks. Finding enough foster carers or adopters who are willing and able to take sibling groups continues to be a national challenge. Local authorities consider a range of things when seeking a suitable placement to maximise the ability of that placement to meet the child’s needs and protect their welfare, the child’s views and wishes are critical in this. In the case of siblings, we need to balance each child’s individual and sometimes conflicting needs and the capacity of the carer to meet them. The decision to separate siblings is never taken lightly. Where they cannot live together, siblings must be supported to understand the reasons for this, and there should be robust plans for meaningful contact between them, so long as it’s consistent with their welfare. Contact arrangements should be regularly reviewed to reflect the fact that children’s needs can, and do, change over time and clear contact plans should be made at the start of placements. When permanent placements are made local authorities may not continue to be involved long term but needs can still change over time including the arrangements for sibling contact and any carer can make contact with the local authority where they live if they need advice about how to manage the changes.

“ADCS would encourage those who believe they can offer children a stable and loving home and would like to find out more about adoption or fostering to come forward, particularly where they would be able to care for children in a sibling group. More placement choice can only be a good thing for the children in our care.”

ENDS


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Comment: Boarding school placements for children in care

Commenting on the use of boarding school placements for children in care Charlotte Ramsden, Chair of the ADCS Health, Care and Additional Needs Policy Committee said:

“For some children in and on the edge of care the right boarding school can provide a strong foundation in life, sometimes as an alternative to care, but it’s not suitable for every child. Children and young people’s needs vary so social workers will explore a range of options when considering how to best to support them. For most children in care a return home, fostering, adoption, or a placement with a family member is the best option. Research published last summer is helpful and suggests boarding school placements can improve social and educational outcomes for some children in some circumstances, but there are also many reasons why they may not be appropriate. For example, intense support to maintain a young person at home may be possible, more children are entering care older with complex needs which the school might not be able to meet and children can come into care at any point during the year which doesn’t fit neatly with academic years. Boarding schools typically have longer holidays so where planning a boarding school placement local authorities will need to consider appropriate wrap around support and holiday arrangements. Other things taken into account include the location and cost of the school, together with distance from home and the importance of maintaining local and family relationships. Local authorities will always work with vulnerable children and young people and their families to secure the best possible outcomes according to individual need and will also ensure the views of the young person are actively addressed in the plan.”

ENDS


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Comment: EPI report on children’s mental health services

Jenny Coles, ADCS Vice President, said:

“Poor mental health and wellbeing can have a lasting impact on a child’s life chances. This report describes a mental health system that is not serving our children and young people well enough, where children face a postcode lottery, significant waiting times and difficulties accessing the services they need. The report identifies the transition from child to adult mental health services as a major problem area, we would agree. While some child and adolescent mental health services are extending support to 18 and sometimes even 25, too many services stop at 16 leaving a gap in support before young people become eligible for adult services. ADCS welcomed the priorities set out for children and young people’s mental health in the NHS Long Term Plan, however, it was not sufficiently ambitious enough. Much more needs to be done to ensure children receive the right mental health and wellbeing support, at the right time, in the right place, whether it’s specialist provision or vital early help and preventative services. We want to see this government make children’s social, emotional and mental health a priority – the benefits extend beyond the individual to society as a whole.”

ENDS


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Comment: Funding for the Troubled Families Programme

Rachel Dickinson, ADCS President, said:

“Yesterday the government announced new funding for the Troubled Families Programme for 2020/21. The programme pays for a variety of things from family coaching and domestic abuse interventions to positive activities for children and young people. We know from evidence and experience that it is making a difference in children and families’ lives in lots of local areas. In many places this funding underpins the local early help offer. While this funding is welcome the future of the programme, beyond 2020/21, remains unclear and some councils may still have to make tough decisions about these vital services in the long term. Moreover, without a sufficient, long term financial strategy for our children’s services with prevention at its heart we continue to store up huge human and fiscal costs for the future.”

ENDS


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Comment: OCC report on out of area placements

Rachel Dickinson, ADCS President, said:

“Councils work hard to find suitable placements for children in our care by taking a partnership parenting approach with colleagues in health, schools and others to ensure children and young people get support when and where they need it. Being close to family, friends and school is obviously desirable but there are good reasons why a child might be placed further away, including their safety or if a very specialist placement is necessary to meet their needs. We try hard to take children’s views into account but, as Sir Martin Narey recognised in his review of residential care, finding ‘the right placement’ is more important than location. Many out of area placements are made in bordering areas and this can be a positive thing for children. This reality isn’t reflected well in the report and some of the figures lack context, kinship care and youth custody placements are included here.

“As the number of children in our care increases so too does our need for high quality placements, in the right places. The government has, at times, overlooked its own role in tackling the issues raised here. Placement sufficiency continues to be a key issue for virtually all councils across the country but there is no national strategy to recruit more foster carers, to increase capacity in children’s residential homes or to address geographic mismatch of placements. Local authority budgets have been halved since 2010 and this is impacting on our ability to develop new provision. Other challenges include the fact that councils cannot direct an academy school to admit a child in care as they can a maintained school meaning it can take several weeks or even months to secure a steady school placement.

“ADCS will fully engage with the government’s upcoming review of the care system, which we hope will address our concerns around placement sufficiency and the changing nature of the placement market more generally. The role of private equity firms and the level of profit being generated by some companies from the care of vulnerable children is wholly inappropriate and the level of risk now apparent in the system is very concerning.”

ENDS


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Trauma informed practice in schools and beyond

All behaviour is a form of communication. Children and young people may not have the words to describe what has happened to them, or are too scared to articulate it, but they’ll find a way to tell us, if only we take the time listen. Thinking of a child’s challenging behaviour as ‘bad’ disposes us to respond with a punishment. Thinking of them as distressed or struggling helps us to act differently. This is as true in a classroom setting as it is in a fostering placement or the family home following a traumatic event, say flooding. So, instead of asking, ‘what’s wrong with you?’ we should all take a moment to ask, ‘what happened to you?’

Lots of children and young people have been exposed to repeated and extended trauma in their short lives, from bereavement, neglect and family breakdown to being affected by serious and scary incidents such as the terrorist attack at Manchester Arena a couple of years ago. These events leave lasting effects, once the initial threat or harm has passed children can exhibit ‘survival behaviours’ to cope with new stressors. Children are more susceptible to stress as a result of traumatic experiences. In the longer-term unaddressed trauma reduces resilience, adds to developmental delays, may impact on the ability to form trusting relationships and increase the likelihood of engaging in risk taking behaviours, from running away to substance misuse.

In recent weeks new education policies and priorities have been revealed, apparently there is support for behaviour policies based on zero tolerance and the use of sanctions despite the knowledge this will penalise vulnerable learners. Fixed term and permanent exclusions have been rising since 2013/14 and learners receiving support from social care, those who are eligible for free school meals or children with special education needs and disabilities are significantly more likely to be excluded than their peers. The ink is barely dry on the findings of Edward Timpson’s review of exclusions yet the narrative from central government has hardened and worryingly may even include the use of reasonable force in classrooms.

So, I find my thoughts turning with increasing frequency to the disconnect between this apparent new policy direction and the relationship-based approaches used in wider children’s services. Trauma can manifest itself in the classroom as refusal, hostile or even threatening behaviours. We teach children that making academic mistakes in school is a valuable part of the learning process yet behavioural errors are somehow worthy of punishment. The benefits of all schools adopting trauma informed and restorative ways of working, showing empathy and building trusting relationships between learners, their families and teaching or pastoral staff are myriad.

We need to think differently and more inclusively for the benefit of children and their futures. Adopting restorative approaches and being alert to the impact of trauma on a child’s wellbeing and development isn’t a quick fix nor is it simply warm words. It requires cultural and organisational change, a real investment in staff development and the most precious resource of all, time.

Rachel Dickinson, President of ADCS 2019/20.

This column was first published on the CYP Now on 23 September 2019 - Link


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ADCS response to the Queen’s speech

Rachel Dickinson, ADCS President, said:

“There was relatively little in today’s Queen’s speech for children, and relatively little that was new. However, we are interested in engaging with the new Royal Commission on the criminal justice process and understanding how it will relate to children and young people who are in conflict with the law.

“The government reaffirmed its commitment to provide schools with a three-year funding settlement which is welcome, but we still await a sustainable settlement for local government.

“We are pleased that the Domestic Abuse Bill will continue its progression through parliament, but it does not go far enough for children. Growing up in an abusive household can have a devastating and lifelong impact on children’s lives. This is the most common reason why children come to the attention of children’s social care. In tackling this issue, we must maintain a strong focus on early intervention and prevention, working with both families at risk as well as with perpetrators.

“We had hoped that today’s speech would provide long term solutions to many of the issues affecting children and families today, such as child poverty. It did not. Poverty damages lives, it damages childhoods, and it damages the economic prosperity of this country. We urge the new government to be ambitious for children by introducing strategies that reduce child and family poverty as a matter of urgency.”

ENDS


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Comment: Quarterly family court statistics

Sara Tough, Chair of the ADCS Families, Communities and Young People Policy Committee, said:

“Local authorities and the courts have made some good progress in improving the timeliness of care proceedings down from an average of 50 weeks in 2011 to 26 weeks in 2016. However, these quarterly statistics show that average times have increased in recent years, to 33 weeks in July-September 2019. There are several reasons for this, for example the number and complexity of cases we are dealing with has increased and sometimes assessments must be completed for family members who have emerged during court proceedings. There is also a national shortage of judges which has an impact on timescales. That said, it’s important to note that we are performing better for children and families than we were eight years ago. Timeliness is important but it should never be put above securing the very best outcomes for each child and young person, even if this does fall outside of the 26 week time limit.

“Adoption can be the right thing for some children but it’s not suitable for every child – for some living with a special guardian, foster family or in residential care is the best option. Although the number of adoption applications has fallen it is reassuring to see that more children for whom adoption is the right option are achieving permanence via an Adoption Order.”

ENDS


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Yorkshire & Humber Regional Update - December 2019

The Yorkshire & Humber Regional Update

Work Plan

The 2019 work plan for sector-led improvement is being progressed and monitored. It has a particular emphasis on:

• Addressing key regional priorities including quality and sufficiency of placements

• Customised support for individual LAs with greatest need (front door health checks/every LA a PIP)

• An enhanced role for CXs and lead members through the Children’s Improvement Board

• A slimmed down self-assessment process

• Introduction of quarterly reporting using a web-based platform.

Regional Priorities

There has been a particular emphasis on quality and sufficiency of placements, including increased regional investment in a refreshed regional commissioning framework and a commitment to regular compilation and analysis of sufficiency information.

Quarterly Performance Reporting

The new arrangements are now in place. The report for Q2 was produced in early November. We are utilising ‘Tableau’, a web-based solution which is offering greater reporting flexibility. Further work is being undertaken on inclusion of workforce related indicators around caseload/ vacancies/ agency staff and experience.

Governance

There are new terms of reference for our Children’s Improvement Board with increased expectations of lead members and chief executives, giving it a more assertive role. Membership has been extended to include the LGA and there are further reflections on how best to engage the DfE.

Scrutiny and Challenge

Front door health checks (FDHC) have been introduced in 2019. A business process has been developed and teams comprising of staff with a deep understanding of the front door at various levels have been recruited to undertake the checks. We are aiming to complete six health checks in 2019/20, the first two of these in January 2020.

A business process for children’s mental health (CMH) peer challenge has been updated to ensure JTAI compatibility. This is in the process of being piloted in one LA area and will be evaluated in January 2020.

Our annual self-evaluation process has commenced. All LAs are engaged in completing a slimmed down self-assessment schedule which encompasses an expanded signatures of risk section. A regional event in January will enable each LA to receive peer scrutiny and challenge of their self-assessment.

Lead Member Network

There is an active lead member network which meets bi-monthly. Our most recent meeting was a joint one with lead members from the North East, which both groups agreed will be repeated annually.

Every LA a PIP

DfE funding has enabled us to pilot an approach which provides some financial support for LAs (other than PiPs) that exceed normal expectations in the provision of brokered support to others. The model is based on the premise that all LAs have the potential to provide improvement support to others. Our intention is to wrap a coordinated package of support around one or more LAs, drawing on PiP and other regional support. We have commenced activity with one LA and are in discussions with another. Scoping conversations are being led by PIP DCSs to draw upon their experience of negotiating improvement support to others.


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West Midlands Regional Update - December 2019

The West Midlands Regional Update

Children’s Improvement Board

Regional representatives (including lead members, chief executives and the DCS regional Chair, Helen Riley) embraced the opportunity on the 13 November 2019 to speak to the national Children’s Improvement Board and share our improvement journey as a region to date taking them through the roadmap of our priorities, a copy of which is available here. Our input was well received.

Regional Improvement and Innovation Alliance

The 14 directors of children’s services and three children’s trusts chief executives have confirmed their financial commitment to WMCS over the next 3 years. This followed an exercise led by Mutual Ventures which lead to an options appraisal presented to the network in September. The DCS network then confirmed their preferred future structure for WMCS which is a more formal, legally binding agreement to ensure shared liabilities. The new structure includes those aspects of the FutureSocial programme that the DCS network wants to pursue and an ongoing relationship with the Teaching Partnership.

NAAS

The NAAS regional phase 2 is now in full swing with growing numbers of social workers and their managers undertaking the assessment and receiving the recognition. The learning curve around capacity remains challenging both in getting councils and trusts to plan ahead so we avoid a ‘bottleneck’ at the end and working closely with Mott McDonald, (now confirmed for the continuation of the NAAS programme), to put on sufficient assessment centres.

SEND Regional Network

The DCS for Birmingham now leads the network focusing on three priorities:

• Being Ofsted ready

• High needs pressures

• Sharing best practice.

Presently the region has too many ‘Written Statements of Action’ and is determined to improve on performance across the region as a whole.

Education and Skills Network

The DCS network finally met with the Regional Schools Commissioner in October. The Education and Skills Network will now develop the relationship and agree on a mutual agenda. There will be an annual review with the DCS network to reflect on performance.

Regional Commissioning Hub

Recruitment to the hub roles is underway, a work-plan is being developed to ensure that the hub is focussed, from day one, on delivering the region’s strategic commissioning objective; better management of the market-place through the collaborative buying power of the councils and trusts leading to significant savings and improved quality for all.

Successful Bids

We were successful with two of the three applications for the Fostering Sufficiency Grant.

The LGA continues to support the region with our RIIA activity.

DCS Networking

The annual DCS residential programme took place on 26 and 27 November 2019, with a mixture of key speaker inputs and detailed group work aimed at reviewing regional priorities and strengthening our alliance.

LGA Lead Members Meetings (14 November 2019)

The region’s close relationship with the LGA continues. Following the election of new lead members in the May elections we supported their lead member training by sharing our RIIA journey.


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South West Regional Update - December 2019

The South West Regional Update

Regional Leadership Development Programme

The Staff College is delivering, with partners, a Leadership Development Programme for aspirant assistant directors in the South West region. The aim of the programme is to improve the strategic leadership skills of up to fifty managers who are the direct reports to assistant directors in each of the region’s fifteen local authorities. The first cohort of 21 commenced in October 2019. The programme will also include a coaching offer to participants.

Self-Assessment Peer Challenge

The date for the self-assessment peer challenge for 2019 will be Friday 6 December. The self-assessment framework has been reviewed with an additional self-assessment on ‘risk factors’ included. All local authorities are participating.

Strategic Children’s Sector-Led Improvement Group – RIIA Board

The Strategic Group, which has representation from the region’s chief executives, lead members, directors of children’s services and the LGA, has now become the Regional Improvement and Innovation Alliance board.

A leadership summit bringing together the chief executives, lead members and directors of children’s services from all of the region’s local authorities is planned for 12 March 2020. The leadership summit will review progress of the alliance and agree plans for 2021 and beyond.

Thematic Peer Challenge Programme for 2019/20

The programme for the coming year gives local authorities the option to choose the focus for their challenge from the themes that Ofsted use for focussed visits and JTAIs. There was a peer challenge workshop on 7 November in Taunton to assist local authorities in their preparation. Partners and themes are being confirmed, the programme is due to start early in the New Year and finish by July 2020.

Upcoming Regional Events

The following events have been planned:

• A regional SEND conference on 4 and 5 December

• An LGA run finance workshop on 5 December

• A regional Research in Practice event to explore practice in complex safeguarding to be held in Exeter on 5 February 2020.

Further regional workshops in the New Year include ‘Developing a more effective response to risk in adolescents’ and ‘Trauma informed practice’. A regional event to recognise ‘World social work day’ in March to be hosted in Bristol is also being planned.

Commissioning Group Project

The regional commissioning group has developed a project, led by Bath and North East Somerset, to gather intelligence through a ‘market position statement’ on the sufficiency of in-house fostering placements in all of the South West local authorities. The project has gained some external funding from the LGA. A draft report has been produced and it is planned that the ‘market position’ will be presented to representatives from all local authorities at a regional meeting in the New Year.


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South East Regional Update - December 2019

The South East Regional Update

Sector-Led Improvement

• The Regional Improvement Plan for 2019-20 with detailed annexes was launched at a regional summit on 22 March 2019

• The plan includes a £130,000 contribution from DfE alongside £162,500 subscription income, and an agreement for quarterly data sharing on the 18 nationally agreed datasets

• The plan has 10 priorities:

Actions that will address practice issues:

1. Collaborate to improve provision for complex LAC

2. Collaborate on increasing in-house foster placements

3. Collaborate on ways to promote educational inclusion with SE19 SEND group

4. Share and develop new models of social care practice that fit the times

5. Develop the regional quality assurance capacity

Actions that will develop leadership capacity and staff resources:

6. Build leadership capacity across the region

7. Workforce matters; recruitment and retention; agency

Actions that will underpin the cycle of self-assessment and peer challenge:

8. Data benchmarking

9. Annual self-assessment and triad peer challenge

Action to address the funding gap:

10. Increase political lobbying to address the funding gap

• The Plan follows a non-stigmatising approach to improvement: The assumption is that there is excellent practice in all authorities; and that all authorities have improvement needs

• Recently we have:

  • Made excellent progress on our complex LAC project
  • Begun our Nov-Jan cycle of triad peer challenges (13 November)
  • Published The Staff College’s needs analysis for leadership development in the region
  • Decided to invite the DfE RISL to our sector-led steering group (with lead member and CE reps present) and cease separate data liaison meetings
  • Commissioned a review of the Memorandum of Co-operation on agency staff employment, which has recently come under pressure
  • Launched new projects on Increasing In-house Fostering (DCS sponsor: Pinaki Ghoshal, Brighton and Hove); Improving the Quality of Audit (DCS sponsor: Steve Crocker/Stuart Ashley, Hampshire and IoW); Developing models of Social Work (DCS sponsor: Nikki Edwards, Bracknell Forest).

For further details go to www.seslip.co.uk or contact the Programme Manager Richard Tyndall 07880-787007 richard.tyndall@richardtyndall.co.uk.


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North West Regional Update - December 2019

The North West Regional Update

Quality Assurance: Practice and Principles

Following our first Quality Assurance Summit delivered in partnership with Ofsted earlier this year, we are developing a range of resources to support local authorities and their partners to maintain and improve their approach to QA in children’s social care. We agree that effective quality assurance has become an increasingly important measure of a local authority’s ability to evidence the impact of services for children and families. There are many different approaches across the region in how leaders secure this assurance, and this has informed our ‘practice and principles’ resource to summarise some of the measures most utilised by authorities. Drawing on good local practice and input from the inspectorate, the resource highlights the following:

• The central role of audit, including innovative ways of understanding the quality and consistency of practice

• The use of practice weeks to create opportunities for senior leaders to observe practice and make links between strategy and practice on the frontline

• Effective communication of the findings of QA activity helping to embed learning and encourage ownership

• Explicit links between training and development and QA to support wider culture change, and determine the impact

• The importance of the role of leaders in QA activity at all levels across partnerships.

We are further developing this workstream through an appraisal of externally commissioned QA activity and the commissioning of a ‘challenge toolkit’ to support targeted sector-led scrutiny. For more details or a copy of the NWADCS Quality Assurance: practice and principles resource, please contact Samantha Sirisambhand, Policy and Performance Manager, NWADCS at samantha.sirisambhand@stockport.gov.uk

Peer Challenge for Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND) Local Areas

SEND peer challenges are an opportunity for local areas to understand whether they are achieving the best outcomes for children and young people with SEND by reflecting on their progress, in the implementation and embedding of SEND reforms in order to support improvement. Based on a methodology co-produced with parent/carer representatives, the flexible approach to peer scrutiny will, in some cases, aim to support readiness for SEND local area inspections or re-visits. In others it will support the post inspection review of continuous improvement and progress in relation to SEND. While a core model of two days on site will be the norm, there are also opportunities for a differentiated approach e.g. a desk top review of the local area SEND self-evaluation - ‘readiness check’ for re-visit. Piloted in two areas (one awaiting inspection, one awaiting revisit), a final process has been agreed and training for peers took place on 29 November. Ultimately the aim is to achieve better outcomes for children and young people experiencing SEND across the North West.

For a copy of the North West SEND Peer Challenge toolkit or details of our training approach, please contact Paul Bunker, Head of Children’s Sector Led Improvement, NWADCS at paul.bunker@stockport.gov.uk.

Children Educated Out of School

In response to the recently reviewed elective home education guidance, the Timpson Review of exclusions and our own data analysis, we have embarked on a coordinated programme of activity to review our practice and systems for children educated outside of school settings. Whilst still in its initial stages, we have engaged with Ofsted’s unregulated schools team as well as relevant local partners to identify a series of priority areas and inform the initial development of a ‘children educated out of school: practice and principles resource’. We have identified the following workstreams to be addressed:

• Identification including definitions and data sharing

• Oversight and monitoring

• Suitability including intervention and enforcement

• Safeguarding

• Specific groups including looked after children, children with SEND, and gypsy/Roma/traveller children

• Understanding exclusion particularly the use of ‘nurture’ or ‘inclusion’ units.

We are keen to engage with other regions in this area and happy to share our forming work. If you are interested in working collaboratively across regions, please contact Paul Bunker, NWADCSpaul.bunker@stockport.gov.uk


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North East Regional Update - December 2019

The North East Regional Update

Quality Assurance and Performance

We have established a new regional QA and Performance group as part of the NE ADCS network. The aim is to strengthen the role and impact of QA and performance activity in sector-led improvement across children’s services and create better join-up. An early task for the group will be to support and add rigour to the annual ‘Directors’ Challenge’ process.

Elective Home Education

The regional education group is carrying out some work to create a regional picture of LA approaches to monitoring elective home education. We are also hoping to carry out some regional analysis of LAs’ responses to the ADCS EHE survey.

Extra-Familial Harm and Exploitation

The Children’s Safeguarding Network is undertaking a mapping exercise to understand the current arrangements in place across the region to respond to concerns relating to extra-familial harm and exploitation. The exercise aims to understand strategic and operational responses to CSE, child criminal exploitation (including county lines), youth violence, gangs and modern slavery/trafficking in each local authority area, with a view to identifying opportunities to strengthen practice.

Agency Social Work MoU

We have carried out a review of our MoU relating to agency social workers, which has been in place for over two years. As a result of the review we have revised the capped rates, incorporated the use of project teams into the agreement and strengthened the escalation process.

Care Leavers and Council Tax Exemption

In response to a request from our Regional Children in Care Council, we are exploring council tax exemptions for care leavers and how this might apply across LA boundaries for care leavers who no longer live in their ‘home’ local authority area.

Applied Research Collaboration

The North East and North Cumbria Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) is now live. This research network, funded by the National Institute of Health Research for five years, is a partnership between HEIs and a range of care organisations which aims to improve outcomes in health and social care through high quality research on local priority issues.

DCS changes

The region welcomed Kathryn Boulton who took up the post of DCS in Redcar and Cleveland at the end of September.


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Greater London Regional Update - December 2019

The Greater London Regional Update

The London Innovation and Improvement Alliance (LIIA)

During 2019, London has made significant progress in the development of its Innovation and Improvement Alliance. Notably: –

• All 33 London authorities are returning data to enable quarterly benchmarking

• Every London authority has contributed to sector-led improvement work through peer challenge or through involvement with one of the thematic groups

• The first peer review has been undertaken, on adolescent safeguarding

• The ALDCS LIIA website has been launched

• Thematic priority groups are now well-established with developing work plans across all four areas: finance and resources; vulnerable adolescents; workforce; and special educational needs and disabilities.

An annual summit is planned for March 2020.

Funding Pressures in Children’s Social Care and High Needs

London DCSs are working with London councils, chief executives and finance directors to understand better the financial pressures facing children’s social care budgets and the High Needs Block. A members event was held in September to share the findings of work undertaken and shape London’s priorities for collaborative working. For the next phase, a working group is being set up to look at high cost placements, workforce and collaboration with the NHS in London in respect of achieving consistency in the health component of EHCPs.

Admissions

London primary schools received 96,598 applications in total this year, a 0.08% decrease compared to last year, according to figures published by the Pan-London Admissions Board. 97 per cent of children due to start primary school in London this September have been offered a place at a preferred school. There is growing concern about decreasing rolls at primary schools in some parts of London although this year’s numbers show a relatively small overall decrease. ALDCS continues to support boroughs with places planning, to ensure that all boroughs can meet rising need, particularly in secondary and special schools, as well as cope with reductions in demand at primary in some boroughs.

New Multi-Agency Safeguarding Arrangements

In order to maintain a level of consistency across London and to facilitate communication across local areas, the new arrangements are either called Safeguarding Children Partnerships or Safeguarding Children Boards. Links to the new arrangements are available here. The London Safeguarding Children Board has agreed to have an executive of the three safeguarding partners at a pan-London level and ALDCS is represented on this executive. Engagement with the wider partnership will continue but in a different format. However, there are delays to implementing these changes as a result of difficulties securing senior level attendance from police and health services at the executive.

Children in Custody

A multi-agency working group, chaired by a DCS, is working with the MPS to reduce the number of children held in police custody. The group shares data on police requests for accommodation with local authorities on a regular basis. This sharing of data has enabled feedback on cases between custody suites and emergency duty teams thereby improving the police and local authority response to children held in custody. A protocol for London, which supplements the Home Office Concordat on children held in police custody, went live on 10 June. ALDCS has also asked local authority commissioners across London to develop approaches to the co-commissioning of non-secure alternative accommodation for children denied bail – there is insufficient demand for places for any one borough to address this issue.

There are pilots across a number of London boroughs to develop the safeguarding response to children when they are arrested. Examples of approaches taken include: custody suites contacting children’s social care as soon as a child arrives in custody; children’s social care visiting every child in custody in order to carry out an assessment and employing youth workers in custody suites to work with children and their families as they are arrested.


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East Midlands Regional Update - December 2019

The East Midlands Regional Update

This quarter has been an interesting one for the East Midland region as inspection processes have had a quite noticeable impact upon our levels of collaborative activity. Over three quarters of the region’s local authorities have either received ILACS in this period or have been heavily involved in follow-up from recent inspections or preparation for forthcoming ones. All of this consumes significant leadership capacity.

As reported previously, the EM RIIA plan is used as the coordinating framework for almost all of our joint work between LAs in support of children’s services. LAs are currently in the process of refreshing/updating their regional self-assessments and will submit them for the scrutiny of our LA-triad peer challenge process in the new year. This annual cycle will update the plan of our collaborative work to:

• Identify brokering priorities for LA-to-LA support

• Establish joint work opportunities to address common themes

• Create focus for the priority themes of our regional networks and groups.

No substantial new work streams have therefore been instigated within this quarter, but on going activity continues on a wide range of fronts, including:

• Collaborative price management controls for purchasing from the independent market

• Development of a sub-regional framework for placement procurement

• Development of effective practice and assessment relating to child exploitation

• Re-commitment to tackle the quality and price of agency social work

• Mapping the most effective practice/schemes that increase the supply of LA social workers

• Audit case moderation and joint quality assurance

• A new group and work-stream for service managers supporting care leavers

• Development of an Early Intervention Practitioner L4 Apprenticeship

• Training for IROs and CPC chairs in contextual safeguarding, modern slavery and care planning.

In the coming months we look forward to the contribution that will be made by:

• Sharing effective practice that develops in-house fostering

A series of good practice visits between LAs on their priority themes.


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Eastern Regional Update - December 2019

The Eastern Regional Update

Regional Self-Assessment and DCS Peer Challenge

• The 2019 annual self-assessment process concluded in June. A six-month status update challenge will be conducted before the end of the year and this will include a six-month data review

• A workshop has been held to review the template used for self-assessment to ensure that it remains current/relevant to changing needs.

Regional Priorities

• Regional priorities were agreed by the DCS group at the peer challenge event. A meeting is planned with the chairs of all the regional networking groups to disseminate the priority areas and establish each group’s contribution to them. The priority areas are:

  • Outcomes for children in need and early help
  • Children not in school and vulnerable learners
  • Serious youth violence
  • Managing the placement market through regional alliances
  • Middle and frontline leadership and management
  • Continual improvement through self-assessment
  • Peer challenge and review
  • Sharing good practice

• A regional conference was held in September to focus on the priority area of serious youth violence; this combined national, regional and local best practice. We continue to seek opportunities for further regional collaboration to tackle this issue

• A leadership and management training programme is being constructed by a regional working group in conjunction with The Staff College, targeting heads of service and team managers.

Peer Review and Inspection

• Peer reviews continue to provide challenge and support in targeted, thematic areas of service

• They have been undertaken across social care, education and SEND services with others planned for the coming year

• The focus of education service peer reviews, which are being conducted across the region, is on school exclusions.

Data Benchmarking

• The regular quarterly tartan rug report highlights comparative performance across all LAs in the region against a range of performance measures

• A performance benchmarking report for 2018/19 has been published for the region; it pulls together data from the tartan rug alongside nationally published data across children’s social care

• The next regional benchmarking exercise will focus on assessment factors.

Network Highlights

• The regular regional networks continue to be held, together with the re-establishment of a workforce, resourcing and development group for workforce leads across the region

• A regional conference has been held for the leaving care group with a focus on developing local offers

• The corporate parenting steering group (CPSG) is developing ideas for a regional conference on placement stability

A regional leaders’ event for chief execs, lead members and DCSs is being planned and is likely to be scheduled in early 2020.


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RS and SPI Policy Committees Update - December 2019

Resources & Sustainability and the Standards, Performance & Inspection Policy Committees

The Resources & Sustainability and the Standards, Performance & Inspection Policy Committees met jointly in London on Tuesday 24 September. Initially the group was joined by representatives from the DfE to discuss emerging plans for a family justice themed peer review which has grown out of some wider work undertaken by the Family Justice Board (FJB) exploring volume and variation in public law activity. The FJB believes that a new peer review could be an effective way of moving locally developed best practice around the system. The group noted that there is a lot of sector-led improvement activity already happening in regions and felt there would need to be a more distinct and defined offer in order to secure buy-in. It was felt a focus on neglect could add real value and that this should be discussed with regional improvement and innovation alliances directly (RIIAs).

The group was then joined by a consultant who is undertaking a piece of work for the LGA on out of area housing moves for people of all ages. Here there was a focus on the families of children and young people who are known to children’s social care to be ‘in need’, including those with no recourse to public funds. This growing practice is driven by the shortage of suitable and/or affordable houses in parts of the country and can lead to gaps in vital support and services. The LGA is exploring ways of encouraging the spread of best practice when moving families out of area alongside a potential notification system. The committee agreed this is an important issue which urgently needs addressing and noted that government departments, in particular the Home Office, are also responsible for moving families around the country. Further work will continue, and views are being sought from a wide range of stakeholders, including children’s services.

Next, the group discussed the sufficiency of care placements and the changing nature of both the fostering and residential markets as acquisitions and private equity investment become more commonplace. A lot of children’s homes and independent fostering providers are merging and at a faster rate than seen before. Beyond concerns about the level of risk building in this market and the impact a provider failing might have on children’s outcomes, other patterns are emerging which again are giving concern. For example, when independent fostering providers merge, their market share goes up but the number of foster carers appears to go down. For local authorities that are purchasing placements, this net loss to the system is keenly felt in terms of choice and cost. The group agreed we need to revisit these interlinked issues again in the future, particularly in relation to greater options for collaborative commissioning.

The final update on the day related to a brief overview of the government’s recently announced review of SEND. It was noted that the recent spending round announcement included an additional £700 million for local authorities to alleviate pressures on SEND budgets, this is some acknowledgement of the crisis in this provision but this not insubstantial sum will almost be entirely swallowed up by existing deficits. The group discussed some of the key themes and messages that would be helpful for the Association to play into engagements with the review team, this included bringing independent special schools into the state sector, greater oversight of pupil exclusions and a review of the contribution of health


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EA and HCAN Policy Committees Update - December 2019

Educational Achievement Policy Committee and Health, Care & Additional Needs Policy Committees

The Educational Achievement Policy Committee and the Health, Care & Additional Needs Policy Committees met jointly in Manchester on Friday 20 September. For the first item, the group was joined by Suzanne Lunn, Deputy Director for SEND at the DfE, to provide an update on national developments around SEND. There has been renewed focus in this area with various inquiries underway and the government has launched a SEND review which will look at a range of issues. The group stressed the importance of better join up at the national level between the DfE and DHSC and it is hoped that the SEND leadership board will help better connect the two departments in areas such as joint commissioning. The group also discussed the need for greater inclusivity in mainstream schools in supporting pupils with SEND and noted that MATs must be involved in any joint working or conversations to improve this. Suzanne explained that there is now a commitment to developing the new SEND code of practice by 2020 for implementation from April 2021.

Following this, Ian Lewis from NHS England joined the group to provide an update on the NHS Long-Term Plan with an overview of progress made to date and priorities for the future. As part of his update Ian reported that over 180 Mental Health Support Teams are in the process of being established; Local Transformation Plans will continue for at least another year; and there is a focus on extending current service models to create a better offer for 0-25 year olds that reaches across mental health services and does not just focus on transition periods. The group fed back that recruiting practitioners to keep pace with demand has been difficult in some areas. Further, our definition of the mental health workforce can differ from the NHS definition; we need to know where other roles fit into the system, such as Family Support Workers and SENCOs.

The group was then joined by Lynsey Burridge, NAVSH Chair, to discuss the role of the Virtual School Head (VSH) one year on since its remit was extended to support previously looked-after children. Lynsey explained that many VSHs have taken on extra responsibilities due to LA pressures but have not received additional resourcing and this has acted as a barrier to VSHs meeting their new duty. Going forward, the Children in Need review recommended further expansion of the role of the VSH to include children ever known to children’s social care. The group warned that there is a risk of ever expanding the cohort who are supported by the virtual school and we must be clear on the remit of the role.

Finally, the group was joined by Richard Caulfield from the Association of Colleges (AoC) to discuss some of the pressures in the FE sector, particularly in supporting vulnerable children and young people, some of whom may have been excluded from mainstream school. FE colleges share some of the same challenges as LAs, such as supporting young people who have SEND, are home educated, or have been in alternative provision. However, as colleges are funded to teach students for 15 hours per week, this can leave some young people who are vulnerable to youth violence and exploitation with significant amounts of free time during which they could potentially be exposed to risk. The group highlighted that a lack of funding for FE is a big issue for children’s services where there are clear common pressures; these do not stop at Year 11.

The group also discussed the first substantive draft of the ADCS health position paper, the Timpson Review of School Exclusions and links to SEND and received an update on ADCS discussions with the CVAA on the adoption inter-agency fee.


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WD and FCYP Policy Committee Update - December 2019

Workforce Development and the Families, Communities & Young People Policy Committees

The Workforce Development and the Families, Communities & Young People Policy Committees met jointly in London on Friday 27 September. The group was joined by Nicola McGeown, Principal Social Worker at East Sussex County Council, for the first item to speak about the use of social media in social work. East Sussex is developing a policy around this and Nicola noted that while they are focusing on safety online, the use of social media covers a range of areas which they are looking at, for example communication with young people and threats to social workers online. The group welcomed Nicola’s input in an area that is still being explored and noted that current publicly available guidance is not always relevant.

The group was then joined by Patrick Myers to discuss the Reducing Parental Conflict (RPC) programme and workforce aspirations. The programme is focused on co-parenting and eligibility for the programme has been widened so that an estimated 1.2 million children are currently eligible. Patrick explained that the role of the wider workforce in this space is key, particularly school staff. It is important that the workforce is able to adopt a relational approach to improve child outcomes through parental behaviours. The practitioner training module is important in achieving this; however, members of both committees expressed some concern over the quality of the training materials and the prescriptive nature of the training. Further, members were frustrated at what is seen as another example of a small amount of government funding for a single piece of work when long-term, sustainable funding is needed.

Next, the group was joined by Donna Molloy from the Early Intervention Foundation and Dr Maria Neophytou from Impetus to discuss the Youth Endowment Fund. They have received a £200m endowment from the Home Office to be spent over 10 years. Donna and Maria gave some context around the types of interventions that are effective in reducing parental conflict such as skills-based and family-focused programmes. The first funding round for 1-2-year grants opened at the end of May and closed on 23 July for projects looking to expand their interventions. The last funding round received a very high number of bids for grant applications with the majority coming from charities or social enterprises. Only 25 of the 446 bids were recommended to be taken further with successful bids announced in October. The group welcomed the funding for innovation work but again stressed the need for long-term, sustainable funding.

Other areas of discussion included serious youth violence and knife crime, an update on safeguarding reforms and statutory guidance for LAs providing youth work.


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Comment: ONS gender pay gap figures

Rachel Dickinson, ADCS President, said:

“Social workers fulfil an important role on behalf of society, they are at the heart of systems that protect children from harm and support families facing challenges, such as poverty, domestic abuse, poor parental mental health and substance misuse. It’s important that social workers are properly recognised and remunerated for their part in keeping vulnerable children and young people safe from harm. As leaders of children’s services we are committed to achieving a diverse workforce through encouraging more people well-suited to the role to choose social work as a career.”

ENDS


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Priorities for the next government

On the campaign trail for the general election we’ve heard politicians talking about all sorts of things from Brexit to investing in our NHS and schools (all important areas). However, I’m more interested in whether the next government will transform election rhetoric into reality by improving the day-to-day lives and outcomes of children and families.

In 2017, ADCS published ‘A country that works for all children’. It highlighted several policy issues from the impact of austerity to an increasingly fragmented approach to public services, overlaid with rising levels of child poverty that are cumulatively having a negative impact on children and families. Two years on, the messages in the paper remain relevant. The premise that ‘all children and families should be able to thrive, not just survive’ is something all our politicians should be able to get behind.

The following things need to be (very) early priorities for whoever forms the next government:

By 2022, the number of children living in poverty is set to increase to 5.2 million, the highest level since records began. The costs for children experiencing poverty are demonstrable and well-documented, poverty and inequality are intrinsically linked to poor health outcomes. But poverty is not inevitable, an ambitious national child poverty reduction strategy could reverse the trends of rising poverty and increasing inequalities in this country.

Prevention is better than cure, but it costs money. Although we welcome recent funding announcements including a new three-four year settlement for schools, we still await a sustainable settlement for local government. Since 2010, our funding has been cut in half yet need has not. We are being forced to make counterintuitive decisions like cutting services that communities value and reduce future demand e.g. children’s centres and libraries. A preventative approach to improving children’s outcomes must come from the top, by this I mean central government must fund local authorities properly and sustainably to enable us to keep children safe and to provide support to children and their families before they reach crisis point. Children’s services are not, nor should we be, a blue light service.

Putting children at the heart of all policy and spending decisions benefits us all by creating happier, healthier communities and reducing future demand for the NHS and adult social care too. A greater focus on wellbeing and resilience in schools will similarly have benefits inside the classroom and beyond.

Jenny Coles is ADCS Vice President 2019/20 and DCS in Hertfordshire County Council.

This column was first published on the LGC website on 21 November 2019 - link


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Comment: Latest DfE children looked after statistics

Rachel Dickinson, ADCS President, said:

“The figures show that local authorities continue to safeguard and protect children and young people in their local areas, despite facing a 50% reduction in our budgets since 2010 and significantly increased demand. The statistics don’t show the many cases where local authorities are working intensively with children and families to enable them to stay together safely. Our ability to work with children and families at the earliest opportunity to prevent them from reaching crisis point is being diminished by an estimated £3.1 billion funding gap in children’s services by 2025. Reductions in other public services, child poverty and increasing instances of domestic abuse and poor parental mental health in our communities is also impacting on this goal. We still await a long-term funding settlement that transcends parliamentary cycles. The next government must recognise that the benefits of investing in children expand beyond the individual to society as a whole.”

ENDS


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Comment: Principal Social Worker survey

Jenny Coles, Vice President of the ADCS, said:

“It’s fair to say the children and family principal social worker, or PSW, role is slightly different in each local area, partly as a result of central permissiveness and partly as a result of the local context, from the size of the authority and the workforce structure to how closely children’s and adult services work together. In essence this advanced practitioner role is about promoting good practice, providing a clear link between the frontline and senior leaders as well as influencing the development of social work practice. PSWs are committed to making a difference, I know they do this in many local areas and this is reflected in the findings of this survey.”

Ends


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Changes to Statutory Youth Work Guidance - Consultation Response

ADCS response to consultation on changes to statutory youth work guidance

View response


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Reflections on the Children Acts 1989 & 2004

This year marks 30 years and 15 years respectively since the Children Acts 1989 and 2004 received Royal Assent. The 1989 Act marked a turning point in children’s rights legislation in England and Wales. It introduced comprehensive change concerning the welfare of children. Central to this was the idea that children’s wishes and feelings must be taken into account when making decisions that affect them. Traditionally, parents were seen to have rights over their children, but the Act reversed this stating that children had free standing right. These welcome child centred principles remain at the heart of all local authorities do.

It is important to celebrate the successes of the Acts. Children are safer now than they were 30 years ago for example. However, many of the challenges faced by children, their families and the services they rely on today could not have been foreseen by the legislators such as the levels of pressure currently in the system or the use of Section 20 voluntary accommodation arrangements for unaccompanied migrant and asylum-seeking children arriving in this country with no family ties.

Over the past decade, the preventative principles underpinning the ‘89 Act have been eroded by austerity, chronically underfunded children’s services and rising need. We continue to call on government to work with us to reclaim and resource the core principles of prevention in the Act, backed by adequate new funding.

The 2004 Act went further to create, amongst other things, the concept of a clear, single point of professional accountability for children and young people’s outcomes in the director of children’s services (DCS). A single individual uniquely centred in the local place in which they work, to bring together different parts of the systems in the best interests of children. It also provided the legal underpinning for the Every Child Matters outcomes framework.

To mark the anniversary of the Acts we have invited the ADCS President, Vice President and Past Presidents to reflect on the Children Acts of 1989 and 2004, the successes and what has changed since they became law.

View the reflections


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