The National Children and Adult Services Conference 2018 opened on Wednesday 14 November in Manchester with speeches from ADASS President Glen Garrod, ADCS President Stuart Gallimore and Councillors Anntoinette Bramble and Ian Hudspeth from the LGA.
In his opening speech to the conference, Stuart spoke about how the story of Graham Gaskin has inspired him throughout his career in doing his upmost for all children and young people. He went on to speak about the increasing pressures on children's services and highlighted evidence from the Safeguarding Pressures Phase 6 report, published last week, which shows how significant increases in initial contacts and referrals made to children's social care over the past decade and rising levels of poverty have impacted on services. Stuart went on to talk about last month's autumn budget announcement and the funding allocated to children's services. While he welcomed the acknowledgement that more funding is needed, he stressed the need for long-term, sustainable funding to support the sector as a whole so that children receive high quality services at the earliest possible opportunity, such as early help services which support children and families with complex problems that require long-term responses. Finally, and in bringing his speech to an uplifting finish, Stuart spoke about the brilliant job that children's services are doing despite these challenges and our need to be both the conscience and the ‘noisy neighbours' of central government.
Conference delegates were kept busy in sessions that ran throughout the morning and into the afternoon. In an interesting session that morning, Amanda Spielman (HMCI) and Yvette Stanley from Ofsted, spoke about new inspection frameworks for schools and local authorities. During the session, Amanda spoke about missing children and the threat of county lines before announcing the publication of the findings from Ofsted's most recent joint targeted area inspection into children who are criminally exploited. Later that day, in a very informative session about child poverty, president Stuart Gallimore spoke about the rising numbers of children living in poverty, many of whom in working households, and the challenges this presents to local authorities. We also heard from Lucy Butler from Oxfordshire County Council about tackling sexual abuse and exploitation. Throughout the afternoon, delegates were able to choose from a variety of workshops such as understanding youth outcomes, integrating children's services and supporting those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) where research commissioned by the LGA and delivered by ISOS on developing an effective local SEND system was published.
On Thursday morning, delegates chose from another diverse range of workshops including a particularly interesting session on contextual safeguarding across transitions, the role of Performance and Quality Assurance in social work, as well as hearing from Donna Malloy from the Early Intervention Foundation about the importance of offering support earlier. Leading into the afternoon, there were engaging sessions on tackling criminal exploitation and gangs, and the National Transfer Scheme for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and the funding challenges that local authorities face. Later in the day, Stuart Carlton spoke about North Yorkshire's ‘No Wrong Door' programme before we heard from Junior, a care leaver from North Tyneside, who sits on the What Works Centre's Children and Young People's Panel, about the need to work with families at the earliest opportunity.
ADCS also published the 2018 Elective Home Education Survey on Thursday. This is the third consecutive year of the survey and approximately two thirds of local authorities provided data on the growing number of children and young people known to be home schooled. The report estimates that nearly 80,000 were known to be home schooled at any one point during with 2017/18 academic year.
In the afternoon, the Minister of State for Children and Families, Nadhim Zahawi, addressed the conference and spoke about working closely with the sector and announced the opening of the bidding window for the early outcomes fund for local authorities in improving early language outcomes. Finally, Carol Brookes presented the findings of the Safeguarding Pressures Phase 6 report. The longitudinal study compares 10 years' worth of data showing the growing demands in children's services. Carol thanked the 140 local authorities who took part in the survey, covering 95 per cent of England's child population. The day ended with a series of fringe meetings followed by the annual Guardian quiz. The ADCS team looked to defend our crown as last year's champions and, despite a valiant effort, we finished in a respectable fourth place.
A variety of sessions ran throughout the final morning of the conference which included creating a continuous improvement environment for Children's Social Care as well as modernising adoption and supporting Special Guardians.
In the afternoon, we heard from Matt Dunkley, Chair of the Resources and Sustainability Policy Committee, in a session about children's services funding. Matt spoke about the many and complex pressures impacting on children's services and the difficult choices that local authorities are having to make in meeting rising demand with a lack of adequate funding available. In the final plenary session of the day, The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, addressed the conference and spoke about the importance place and public services working closely together to help their communities while keeping people at the heart of what we do.
There was lots of Twitter activity over the last three days. Search #NCASC18 or see @ADCStweets for a summary of events.
Speeches and presentations from the event will be posted onto the conference website and shared via the ADCS bulletin when available. Here's to what has been, yet again, another enjoyable conference. We hope to see you all again next year for plenty more interesting discussion and debate in Bournemouth.
This blog first appeared on the ADCS website