Listening to reports of yet more serious youth violence in the last few days and feeling sick to my core at the tragic and senseless loss of young life, and the devastation of family, friends and communities, I reflected on the continued challenges we face in trying to make a difference to the lives of families in increasingly difficult circumstances. Whilst last week's Budget provided something for children's services, it did not go far enough as children's and adult services remain woefully underfunded. With responsibility for both of these services in Salford City Council, I find this hugely concerning, as do colleagues across the country. By failing to invest in children, particularly the most vulnerable, I wonder what message they are receiving about their value to society and to us all?
We increasingly know what works; relationship-based practice focused on strengths and personalised support, but with an understanding of the impact of trauma and the distress that lies behind so much of the challenging behaviour we see, to enable people to grow and recover. It takes time, commitment, skilled people and of course money!
Although our evidence base of what works is growing, without properly funded children's services that help children and their families earlier before they reach crisis point, our capacity to deliver is shrinking while levels of need are increasing. There is no shortage of commitment in local authorities to do our best for children and families and we will continue to find ever more creative ways to ensure that the voices of the most vulnerable are heard, in a way that makes an impact and delivers resources as an investment for the future. Headline figures from the latest phase of ADCS Safeguarding Pressures research provides us with yet more compelling evidence of the increasing pressures on children's services. Over the past ten years we have seen a surge in demand; the number of initial contacts made to children's social care has increased by 78 per cent, referrals by 22 per cent and the number of children in care by 24 per cent. The report highlights the desperate need of so many children in our country and the increasingly complex world of safeguarding. This reinforces the need to provide those skilled services that we lead with enough resources and support so that we can provide a range of high quality, safe services that support children and their families earlier. It makes sense to invest in children now, they are the adults of tomorrow.
Despite these difficult times, I am often reminded of what a privilege it is to have the opportunity to be a director of children's services and see lives change for the better. (I would say it's one of the best jobs in the public sector). We, like so many of the families we serve, have developed resilience in the face of adversity by working together, learning together and supporting each other. Amongst the staff in our services there is a clear passion for making a difference which will continue to thrive. At the Greater Manchester Care Leavers Award ceremony a few weeks ago, I witnessed the determination and pride of so many care leavers from 10 authorities, achieving great things and overcoming adversity because of the support they have had to help them to grow and believe in themselves. Whatever else we do in these next few weeks, let all of us take some time to read the latest Safeguarding Pressures research, if you haven't already. Let us get the needs of children, families, and the services that help and protect them, high on the priority list, locally, regionally and nationally. Together we can make an even bigger difference as we strive for a country that works for all children.
Charlotte Ramsden is strategic director of children and adults services, Salford Council. This blog first appeared on the ADCS website