What a year!

Jenny Coles
Friday, December 18, 2020

It’s traditional that the President writes the last ADCS blog of the year. This year has of course not been what we were anticipating, predicting or indeed ‘traditional’ and certainly not what Rachel would have been thinking about when she wrote her blog this time last year.

For most of us, experiencing a pandemic and a disease that has endangered life and livelihoods, was something that was read about or happening far away. Even back in January and February, we could not have imagined that we would have ‘lived’ in this way for the last 10 months; will do so for a significant part of next year; that there will be a new ‘normal’ (or will anything be normal again?); and that we would have the language of Covid with children as young as two and three knowing what social distancing means, and track and trace a part of everyday life, not just something from crime novels.

We are reflecting on the things we’ve learnt during the pandemic, the new and developing ways of working, closer community activity, and a greater appreciation of public services and public service.

However, I want to begin by recognising something the last few months have also shone a spotlight on, what has been evident and embedded in our society for a very long time and brought into sharp relief again by the tragic death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement and the racism which is holding progress and equality back at an individual, organisation, and societal level. Inequalities are rife within our country. The focus and energy, locally and nationally, is an essential part of moving forward next year and ADCS has a significant role to play in this for children’s services through our policy priorities, our engagement with government, and our membership.

We have seen a humanitarian crisis with the number of asylum seekers making the dangerous journey across the channel in rubber dinghies. We have provided homes for young people across the country, but the current approach is unsustainable. National and local government have to make a national transfer scheme work on a regional basis, which keeps the care and outcomes for young people at the centre of the decisions we make.

Working in partnership is what we do in children’s services, however, I think we can safely say this has been on another level since March. The range of activity to promote safeguarding and support the most vulnerable will give opportunities for developing a revitalised relationship with our communities and partners, both within and beyond the sector. 

We only need to look to our colleagues in Liverpool who are planning to recognise the support of the military in the roll out of mass testing by awarding troops the Freedom of the City. The reaffirmation and strengthening of the local authority partnership with schools and regional schools commissioners to achieve the return to school, promote learning, and manage a process when children have to be sent home – indeed just to get to the end of term is an immense achievement.

The increased partnership and support between ADCS members is also clearly evident. Sharing practice, challenges, and experiences that have been different across the regions confirms the value of the Association and I’d say sets us on a path for even greater involvement of the broader membership next year. 

Sarah and the fantastic ADCS staff team, yet again have our admiration and enormous thanks, ensuring we have the latest information in an ever-changing landscape and getting the voice of children and their experiences heard through the Association’s four major publications and numerous media articles since April.

The end of year blog cannot come to a close without remembering our dear friend and colleague Dave Hill – such an advocate for children and our profession. “All you need is Love” said Dave – what more can you say and here’s to 2021!

Jenny Coles is DCS at Hertfordshire Council and president of the ADCS. This blog first appeared on the ADCS website

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