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President’s Address at the 2015 Annual Conference

On Thursday 9th July 2015, Alison O’Sullivan, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) gave her address at the ADCS annual conference in Manchester.

On the role of the Director of Children’s Services

“Holding the statutory role is not something any of us take lightly and it has real meaning. The very nature of the role is more than just an administrative detail. When we get up in the morning and when we go to bed at night we feel the responsibility. It lives with us.”

On early help and public sector funding

“I have a deep concern that the full impact of recent cuts to local authority funding are not yet well understood. Many of the changes being made are complex to implement and take time. The impact will not wash through the system for another one, two or three years. And at the same time further cuts will need to be made. There is a looming crisis in relation to our ability to keep a balance in the system between investment in early help and the costs of late intervention. Government needs to monitor this very closely and consider if steps will need to be taken to ensure we do not do irreversible damage to our ability to prevent serious harm occurring.”

On schools

“It’s time the government worked with us to develop a more constructive and collaborative relationship on schools. For too long we have been in what can only be described as a stand-off. It’s time that national policy reflected the groundswell which is the reality of collaboration at a local level. We now need to find the right way of signalling and enabling better collaboration; collaboration between central and local government and collaboration between schools themselves.”

On the Single Inspection Framework

“Much of the methodology is rigorous and there’s a welcome focus on getting alongside frontline staff and listening directly to children and young people. But the calibration is simply wrong – the SIF itself is broken and discredited. It is burdensome and disproportionately consumes the resources of both the inspectors and the inspected. We need to consider the right arrangements for inspecting how well local area partnerships are working to protect children as part of the redesign of inspection arrangements as a whole. We must not create yet another later of inspection adding to the already unreasonable burden. Local authorities simply cannot cope with anymore.”

On Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards

“The original objective of the Board, is to co-ordinate and ensure the effectiveness of what is done by each local partner agency for the purposes of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in the local area. But increasingly we have seen these Boards expected to be responsible for the delivery of operational imperatives well beyond that of child protection. So there needs to be more clarity about expectations of Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards. You only need to think about radicalisation and child sexual exploitation to recognise that child protection activity is becoming ever more complicated. We need to be clear that responsibility for delivery, as with all partnership arrangements, sits with the respective organisations who have particular duties to fulfil. And each of those organisations needs to be accountable for the delivery of their contribution.”

On leaving care

“As you know, I feel strongly, that similar support should also be available to young people leaving residential care. Too often the most vulnerable of our care leavers, for that is what they are, are leaving residential care earlier than is right for them. And I firmly believe that we need the flexibility to continue to support young people for longer and in doing so we will equip them better for their future lives and try to reverse some of the poor outcomes that our care leavers experience. This is a case of us all finding a way to do the right thing, as any ’good parent’ would.”

On adoption and permanence

“Much progress has been made but there is more to be done. We must continue to focus upon all parts of the journey towards permanence because adoption is not the right outcome for every child. I’m convinced it is possible to take a rigorous approach to permanence as a whole whilst at the same time keeping a clear spotlight on adoption.”

On The College of Social Work

“Whatever happens next we need to hold onto the intention which lay behind creating the College in the first place – to give the social work profession the standing it deserves and the status it needs to influence national policymaking and public debate. That purpose is still valid and needed perhaps now more than ever. We need a cool hard look at all the possibilities to work out the best way forward.”


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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