Press release: Presidential address, ADCS Annual Conference 2021
“No child must be left behind in recovery as we move “cautiously but irrevocably” towards a life free of pandemic restrictions, one where we learn to live with Covid-19”, the President of the Association of Children’s Services, Charlotte Ramsden, said today in her speech to the ADCS Annual Conference.
Charlotte Ramsden, who used her speech to highlight the opportunities ahead, including the Care and SEND Reviews, noted that “whilst we have some concerns as to where the case for change might lead, I do think that the review’s upfront acknowledgement of poverty as the principal driver of demand is an important step in tackling the wider societal determinants of family distress”. She also used her speech to thank ADCS members, made up of senior leaders in children and young people services, for their efforts in helping drive forward the Association’s policy priorities such as in the family justice system and ensuring that children’s health needs are higher up the health reform agenda.
Charlotte Ramsden stressed the important role that local government plays in relation to schools and colleges; “schools are at the heart of their local communities, they are not islands nor are they oases”. She went on to say, “the LA has a unique, democratic, place-based role drawing together multiple partners, providers, volunteers and professionals, community groups, and support services. The relationship between local government and schools is symbiotic. Children’s future life chances depend upon schools and local government working in concert”, she said.
She continued, “the announcement in May of £1.4billion for Education Recovery was disappointing, but we take on face value that there will be further investment to come.” Education recovery must go beyond academic attainment and it “cannot be achieved in isolation from improving children’s wellbeing holistically.”
On Ofsted’s review of sexual abuse in schools
The review “makes clear the sheer scale and prevalence of sexual harassment and online abuse experienced by our young people. It’s clear that a wider response is required beyond new guidance or changes to the curriculum, one that develops new expertise and also draws in young people, parents, carers and communities, in order to protect others from harm. Change at a societal level is urgently required to challenge the misogyny, prejudice, harassment and abuse that is still all too common if we are to protect girls without at the same time criminalising a generation of boys. A national campaign is also needed to tackle the casual acceptance of degrading and over sexualised representations of children and young people.”
On the Care Review
The Care Review “reiterates a series of very important issues that ADCS has been raising with government over the last few years - the value of early help, the impact of poverty on children’s lives and outcomes, the marketisation of services for vulnerable children, the slow pace of change in youth custody responses, funding and the lack of coordination for child and family policy across government.” However, “we must also recognise the incredible work undertaken by our social workers, and the wider workforce, on a daily basis.” Further, “the importance of avoiding lazy stereotypes and being ambitious for children in care cannot be overstated. The evidence is clear that the earlier we are able to support families, the more likely this is to happen. Instead, over the last decade central funding for these vital services has fallen dramatically and so all too often we are now only able to intervene when problems have escalated to near crisis levels. The review calls for a vision for children’s social care, we think this must go further and be part of a coherent and strategic long-term plan for children.”
On the SEND review
“I fear that the SEND Review has lost its mojo. Inevitably delayed due to Covid, it has also been effected by a set of changed circumstances altering the landscape. To date in the review, there’s been too much focus on parental wishes and education provision without any incentive for schools to be more inclusive. ADCS will be urging the review to: clarify accountabilities not just responsibilities; invest in short breaks and family support, and secure commitment from national health partners to invest in children’s health needs.”
“Children and young people with complex mental health needs, high rates of self-harming and suicidal behaviour are often hardest for us to find a placement for that actually meets their needs. Often when seeking to find the right placement at the right time for these children, corporate parents are left with little choice but to create bespoke single placements with intensive wrap around care. The impending ban on placing under 16s in semi-independent placements will exacerbate placement difficulties for this very vulnerable group of children. ADCS has advocated for a refreshed approach to registration of children’s homes, registering the provider not the building in a streamlined process which could include temporary registration for single flexible placements from known and trusted providers. The system must step up and urgently.”
On child poverty
“The impacts of Covid-19 have been differential. The pandemic has simultaneously exposed and heightened the stark disparities between disadvantaged children and their more affluent peers. DfE’s own recently published data show that 1 in 5 children are now eligible for FSM. That’s 1.74million children of whom 430,000 have become eligible since the first lockdown in March 2020. The largest increases in eligibility are in primary-aged pupils. Conference, where is the national plan for children? An ambitious 10-year plan that commits to supporting children to recover from the pandemic and address long term disparities.”
“We need an holistic approach backed by significant and sustainable investment which brings together the educational recovery and wider recovery needs to restore wellbeing.”