Take a deep breath

Mike Bowden
Friday, August 21, 2020

So, writing this in the middle of August makes me think that in many ways this is the moment for taking a deep gulp of fresh air so that we can be prepared for whatever might happen next…

There are a few reasons for doing this, firstly because during August, the pace has slowed with more people away so there is a small opportunity to take that deep breath.

Secondly, many of us are fortunate enough to be taking some form of a short break during the summer period - if you haven’t been nagged to do so already, then please do, it is really important!

And thirdly, it is more crucial than ever to try to switch off (both mentally and electronically) and re-charge the batteries after the prolonged period of managing all of the consequences (so far) of Covid. And…breathe.

And of course, who knows what is coming next? The full return of schools; the challenges of travel to school; the much-anticipated rise in demand for supporting children and adults in our communities; the potential longer-term impacts of job losses and ‘austerity’; ongoing local outbreaks or a ‘second wave’ of Covid; and for many authorities a bleak financial outlook to add to the challenges of supporting recovery and renewal in their local areas. And once we sort out all of that, let’s not forget that ‘business as usual’ had its own challenges to start with!

But directors of children’s services (DCS) and their teams do not step into these roles looking for an easy life or being easily daunted by the odd boulder strewn in their path! The contextual challenges only reinforce the importance of the role of the DCS in our society. Who else is able to take a system wide view of outcomes for children; to make those links about vulnerable children who might be worse off if they don’t have school as a protective factor in their lives; to understand that there are some children who (surprise, surprise) might struggle because they don’t have parents with the capacity or aptitude for providing schooling at home; that there are organisations which in the midst of reactive responses to Covid, might need challenging to remember the impact of their actions on children and young people, or to include children and young people in their plans for recovery and renewal; that black children’s lives matter and there is still so much to do to address the ingrained bias that impacts on their lives and futures?

These are amongst the countless opportunities (not boulders!) to make a positive difference in children’s lives and to ensure that post-Covid Britain is a country that works for all children. Take a deep breath and you can blow those boulders away!

And finally… on a personal note, I am also taking a deep breath and stepping away from being a DCS. Thank you to so many brilliant colleagues in ADCS nationally and regionally as well as in my home patch who have been there to advise, coach and support me in my personal journey as and when needed. I intend to continue contributing to the sector by offering the same for others where I can.

Mike Bowden is DCS in Bath and North East Somerset. This blog first appeared on the ADCS website

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