We see you…
Monday, January 17, 2022
I’m not sure what the collective noun for DCSs is; an exhaustion, a wisdom, a confusion, a compassion, or perhaps it’s a “solidarity of DCSs”.
What I do know is that as system leaders, if we’ve learnt nothing else in the last couple of years, we’ve learnt we’re at our most effective when we act together.
Even before the pandemic hit us, we were beginning to see the benefits of working together through our Regional Improvement and Innovation Alliances, and in the conditions created by Covid those benefits have been amplified and accelerated. It is of course also true that our unique role, privilege even, of being a single point of accountability for outcomes for children in our own area means we convene, encourage, and often drive the collective leadership of the partnerships at a local level.
This is a crucial part of our purpose; place really matters, but this is complimented and enhanced by our determination to address the big issues through our regional work and as a national association.
So, as our muted (if somewhat better than last year) festive celebrations become a distant memory, and 2022 gets into full swing, we should turn our attention to things we need to focus on together and, if it’s not too late, perhaps agree a collective New Year’s resolution.
Each region will already have agreed a number of RIIA priorities; in London they’re Adolescent Safeguarding, SEND, Resources and Sustainability, and Workforce, with cross-cutting themes of Peer Challenge, Innovation, Collaboration, Data Insight, and Anti-Racism and Disproportionality; you will all have your own.
Nationally there are some really big-ticket items; the Education White Paper, the SEND review, the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care, and the Health and Care Bill to name but a few. In recent weeks we’ve seen the publication of an excellent ADCS paper on Youth Justice, and then there’s Domestic Abuse, Educational Recovery, responding to the needs of refugees and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, caring for our fatigued (yet wonderful) workforce, and of course, learning from the tragic child death cases which have been at the forefront of our minds in recent weeks. I could go on - there are lots for us to turn our collective attention to.
What I want to suggest is that amid all of this we could, we should, make a collective New Year’s resolution to keep children visible in all we do. It sounds like a simple thing, trite even, but there is a powerful idea here.
When we are responding to children being exploited by the drugs trade, or in the criminal justice system, we keep them visible as children; when we’re discussing the future of the English education system, we keep the children visible; when responding to the pressures of the asylum and refugee system, we keep children visible; as changes to the health system are developed and implemented, we are the ones who keep children visible. You get my drift. In the cacophony of competing calls for our attention, in 2022 let’s make a collective resolution that we will simply keep children visible, that as a community we’ll say to our children We See You, and we will make sure others do too.
Martin Pratt is Greater London regional chair of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) and executive director supporting people at Camden Council. This blog was first published on the ADCS website.