In my inaugural speech as president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, I outlined the Association’s policy priorities going forward, which build on the 2017 ADCS position paper A Country that Works for all Children”.
In a country that works for all children our public services must be adequately resourced. Since 2010, funding for local government has been halved, despite increased demand. Local authorities have worked hard to shield communities from the worst of the cuts by making efficiencies and working with partners to reshape services and establish economies of scale, but there are no savings left to be found.
Instead, local authorities are having to cut vital early help and preventative services that help prevent the problems children and families face from escalating to crisis point. This is a false economy. At the same time, levels of child poverty are increasing, and more families are going hungry or using food banks to survive.
So our first priority is to clearly and powerfully demonstrate our funding challenges to the Treasury, encouraging them to invest in our children and young people by plugging the funding gap and investing in early help and preventative services. This is the only way to manage demand and secure a sustainable fiscal future of local government. And most importantly, it is the best chance we have to turn around the lives of the most disadvantaged children.
Funding is important but so is investing in our workforce. For children in our local areas to thrive, we need a confident, well supported children’s services workforce. It must provide the right level of capacity to meet the needs of a growing number of children and families requiring help and support.
Since 2014, the Department for Education’s social work reform agenda has focused on social work practice. But we mustn’t forget the members of the wider children’s workforce, who are absolutely central to the endeavour of improving outcomes for children and families. There should be more focus on them and, crucially, more investment in them – particularly those operating at the very earliest of early help opportunities. This is the only way of narrowing the outcomes gap and, over time, it is the only way we can reduce the funding gap in children’s services.
Last but by no means least, we intend to raise the profile of two of the most complex and vulnerable cohorts of young people, and improve outcomes for them. This is a theme I will return to in due course.
I look forward to my year leading the association; to working together with government and partners in the sector to make a difference to the lives of children and families.
Stuart Gallimore, director of children’s services at East Sussex CC and president, Association of Directors of Children’s Services 2018-19