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Press Release ADCS Annual Conference 2016 Presidential Address

President’s address at the ADCS Annual Conference

On Thursday 7th July 2016, Dave Hill, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) gave his address at the ADCS Annual Conference in Manchester.

On the role of the Director of Children’s Services

“As the DCS role is reviewed we must be clear about the advantages of having one voice for children – not because we seek to be defensive or protectionist about our role, but because it works.”

On early help and creating the conditions for successful social work to thrive

“Local government should lead the debate about taking fewer children into care and doing even better for those children that we do take into care. But to get to that turning point safely we’ve got to change the shape of children’s social care not through the lens of the government’s touching faith in structural reform, but by investing in prevention and early help. For a while of course, you have to double invest – money into early help and money into statutory child protection work, but eventually the balance can begin to shift. Less child protection work, fewer children in care resulting in more manageable caseloads for social workers meaning they are better able to achieve continuity in case-holding, forming meaningful sustainable relationships with children and families and thereby making more meaningful, lasting interventions in the lives of children, young people and their families.”

On adoption and permanence

“We value adoption as a means to finding a loving, forever family but love is also present in foster placements and in residential care too. Over the last six years, there has been a focus on adoption as the gold standard of permanence. But ADCS members around the country see no hierarchy in different forms of permanence. The overwhelming majority of the children in our care currently, are in foster placements – it’s time for a focus on fostering.”

On Sir Martin Narey’s review of residential care

“We are pleased to see that Sir Martin Narey’s report into his independent review of children’s residential care has been published this week. We note his recommendation that a fundamental review of fostering is overdue and that this should be a priority for the DfE.”

On the profit made by some Independent Fostering Agencies

“Minister, I urge you to bring your considerable passion and knowledge about fostering to bear on some pretty sharp practices in the private for-profit fostering world. Making millions of pounds of private profit on the back of vulnerable children and young people is quite frankly immoral.”

On the relationships between central and local government and schools

“When well marshalled, collaboration and partnership are the key ingredients of success in our education system and schools. So, please can we stop the pernicious narrative that goes: local authority involvement with schools is de facto a bad thing? Let’s focus instead on creating the conditions for establishing a meaningful relationship between central and local government working together with schools to improve outcomes for children and young people.”

On anchoring accountability for children’s outcomes

“Effective public services can only be delivered in partnership. The local authority leads these partnerships and is responsible for ensuring that the arrangements made by itself and other local providers are designed to benefit children, young people and families and are not predicated on a profit motive or the needs of a single organisation, agency or provider alone. It makes sense therefore, to anchor accountability for children’s outcomes firmly at a local level.”

On safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in care

“The role of the corporate parent is to act as the best possible parent for each child they look after, safeguarding and promoting their welfare and securing the best possible outcomes in particular a duty to promote the educational achievement of children in care. As a sharp-elbowed corporate parent, I don’t want to wait 9 months for my request to the Education Funding Agency to direct a recalcitrant academy to admit one of my kids so let’s devolve the Education Funding Agency’s power to direct an academy to admit a pupil to directors of children’s services in respect of children in care. This would represent a much more efficient and effective system.”

On ensuring school effectiveness

“Acting alone, central government cannot adequately ensure, nor assure, school effectiveness. Therefore, I want to keep my statutory duty to promote high standards in primary, secondary and special education because it gives a way into all schools for the local authority which is the only agency in a geographical area that has a whole-locality focus. With the best will in the world, a Multi Academy Trust isn’t going to spend any time or energy thinking about the life chances and attainment of pupils that attend other schools or colleges. But I am, we are, because we care about the wellbeing of every child and young person on our patches – that’s what councils do.”

On meaningful relationships for children in care

“Every one of us in this room knows only too well how important positive and meaningful relationships are to children, particularly children and young people in care. I wonder though if sometimes the trajectory of years of policy development focussed upon protecting and safeguarding children from physical and sexual abuse has had an unintended consequence – that many adults, be they members of the general public, or the dedicated professionals who work in a wide range of roles with children and young people, are hesitant, reluctant or downright scared of having physical contact with a child. We know that new-born babies in part at least form their attachment with their principal care-givers through physical contact. Children and teenagers need that too.”


The full speech is available on the ADCS website at

Notes to Editors

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 Staff College, today, publish Changing the narrative: a new conversation between the citizen and the State. To access the full report please click here.

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