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NCASC 2022 | Three takeaways for Children’s Social Care

by | Nov 14, 2022 | Children's social care, Health and NHS improvements, High Needs and children's education | 0 comments

At the conference there were some impressive examples of courageous local leadership, and some clear reasons to be hopeful.

My colleagues and I recently joined system leaders within adults and children’s services for the annual National Children’s and Adult Services Conference (NCASC) 2022. Those I spoke with felt the immediate value and energy of coming together as a sector face-to-face after the challenges of the last few years. The significant challenges facing the sector (workforce, cost of living, rising demand/ costs, provider challenges – to name a few) were a clear focus. Alongside this, were some impressive examples of courageous local leadership, and some clear reasons to be hopeful. For me, there were three key takeaways.

We can’t wait for national top-down change and ‘solutions’

Disappointingly, off the back of the turmoil in Westminster there was no ministerial presence at NCASC. This was in the context of uncertainty over elements of the adult social care reform timetable, the implementation timetable for the education white paper/SEND green paper, and the response to the Independent Children’s Social Care review. Questions remain over the impact and challenges these will offer locally.

As many courageous local leaders have already recognised the sector cannot hang its hopes on changes to policy and legislation. Local and collective leadership is needed from the sector. The NCASC plenary session gave two great examples of local, impactful, innovative change programmes in Manchester and Lincolnshire driven by bold leadership.

We need to help more children to be supported by families

Sessions with the Children’s Commissioner, and another focused on social care reform, came back to the importance of support from a family for all children, particularly those in care. This was the number one priority for the 500k+ children surveyed through ‘The Big Ask’ and a focus of the recent review. This has to be the number one aim of the sector.

As highlighted in our plenary session, Lincolnshire County Council has supported 46 children to be reunified with families or brought into Lincolnshire placements and foster families in the past year (while saving £4m+) using IMPOWER’s Valuing Care approach. Similarly, Norfolk County Council has significantly increased the number of children supported by foster families and reunified with families through applying this approach. This and other experiences suggests that structural change alone (e.g. Regional Care Co-operatives) will not deliver this. We need an approach to local practice and commissioning that starts with needs and outcomes, rather than risks and deficits.

The sector requires bold local and collective leadership

There are concerns in the sector around the direction of travel on regionalisation and what this might mean locally. While the reticence around Regional Care Cooperatives is clear, the sector has the opportunity to offer an alternative and compelling approach to collaboration at a sub-national level (not necessarily constrained to a ‘regional’ footprint). An example of this would the opportunity to codify children’s holistic needs, outcomes, and the support required to meet these through a shared framework at a major scale. This requires bold and courageous from the Directors of Children’s Services community to drive forward sector-led approaches. There is also a clear need for sector representatives (e.g. ADCS) to take a more proactive role in driving, identifying, pioneering and disseminating sector-leading innovation and approaches.