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Opinion / Social Care

Many sector voices have been speaking overtly about a serious crisis in council children's services.

Some people used the recent National Adoption Week (17-23 October) to renew calls for a national adoption agency. But to advocate such a position is to continue to fall for the fallacy that everything would be all right if only everyone followed the same practice, according to a central template.

The Children and Social Work Bill is becoming the focal point for important sector debates about whether statutory duties are an impediment to innovation in children's services. So it feels timely to examine the nature of statutory duties and the government's approach to them.

Rarely has the effect of a change in policy and practice been so evident as that seen in the youth justice system over recent years.

How do we respond professionally when things go wrong? How do we act and learn from what has happened? Three specific, but very different, issues have brought this firmly to mind.

Over the past 20 years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of the early years to life chances into adulthood.

During my professional career, I have from time to time found myself newly responsible for an unfamiliar area of work. It's always seemed sensible to me to start by talking to expert colleagues, and to read around the subject to gain a general understanding. That process has always included going back to the original source material and reading the underlying legislation. I have on my bookshelf a variety of Acts of Parliament with post-it notes showing the evolution of my ignorance into some degree of knowledge on topics as varied as school admissions and inspections.

Every now and then, I think about writing a satirical column on education, but before I get round to it, the world has proved that my most extreme ideas are too tame.