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Reset and Renew

The Association recently held its annual conference in Manchester. This was the first in person conference in three years; it was great to be with colleagues again to discuss our shared challenges and share best practice.

In my speech to delegates I reflected on the challenges we faced during the pandemic. While I hope we never experience a situation like it again, it is important to harness learning from what went well and, crucially, what didn’t. ADCS will be making a representation to the public inquiry into the Covid-19 pandemic and we are pleased that sense has prevailed and the inquiry will now have a clear focus on children. As we learn to live with Covid-19, it strikes me that the hard work continues as we reset and renew to help children and young people recover from the effects of the past three years.

The challenges of recruiting a permanent social work workforce was a strong theme at conference this year and in my speech too. The workforce is our greatest asset; without enough social workers, and without supporting them well, we cannot support the children and families we serve. I have also been vocal about profiteering in children’s services, particularly via children’s homes and social work agencies. Currently I can’t find a single agency worker, they are only being offered to us as a team and/or being sold back to us at double the price. This cannot be right and addressing this issue could go some way to help addressing our workforce shortages.

At conference we had sessions on the multiple reform programmes currently underway. ADCS members are not stuck in the past as custodians of the current system, we want change and as I said in my speech now is a once in a generation opportunity on multiple fronts to realise the change to make the whole system for children sustainable and better. An area where I am concerned there is not yet the appetite for change from certain quarters is in the children’s mental health system. Current access, waiting times and treatment targets for mental health support and services are not good enough. Good mental health and wellbeing is one of, if not, the most important issues raised with us by children and young people today. We need to listen to them, and we need to act, ignoring this is a disaster waiting to happen.

This column first appeared in the MJ - Reset and renew (

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