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Covid-19 Recvoery

“There are decades where nothing happens and then there are weeks where decades happen,” is a saying that seems perfectly designed for our times. The last 18 months have been unlike any other but without memorable milestones and events to provide definition, one day of emails and calls can blur into the next. The ADCS annual conference in Manchester is a regular highlight in the calendar of directors of children’s services, offering valuable space for learning and reflection. Earlier this month we gathered online for the second year in a row, inspired to provide collective leadership in understanding and addressing children’s needs.

The conference marked a year since the Association published a paper on Covid-19 in a bid to capture the impact of the pandemic on children’s lives, and on children’s services. It put forward some requests of government to aid recovery efforts. Sadly, there has not yet been an attempt to review responses in the first, or any subsequent, lockdowns to learn lessons, nor is there a clear national strategy to help children recover lost learning and, crucially, promote emotional health and wellbeing. Similarly, there is no multi-year funding package to support this important, life changing work. Funding for tutoring and summer school provision this academic year is to be welcomed but the decision to use the spending review process for future funding betrays the urgency and scale of this task; any new money will not come onside until two thirds of the way through the 2021/22 academic year.

The Association’s Covid-19 paper echoed Sir Michael Marmot’s 2020 calls for an ambitious health inequalities strategy to create a better society. Last month Sir Michael published a review of health disparities in Greater Manchester, where I have spent my entire career. The city region has been hit hard by Covid-19, with a death rate that is 25% above the average for England, because of widening inequalities. National recovery plans must consider the differential experiences across the country; some children have lost extra weeks of face to face teaching due to several isolation periods on top of two lengthy lockdowns. The prime minister has pledged to build back better, building back fairer is a more pressing concern. ADCS continues to advocate for this country to be ambitious for its children, to create a long term national plan in which the differential needs of children are both understood and addressed. There’s no time to lose.

This article first appeared in the MJ

Charlotte Ramsden is ADCS President 2021/22 and Strategic Director for People, Salford City Council.

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