Improving the public image of children’s social care is to be the number one priority of the new president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS)
In his inaugural speech as ADCS president, Essex Council’s director of children’s services, said the narrative about the system needs to change and noted how often children in care are talked about in terms of their over-representation in prison, unemployment and mental ill-health statistics.
“We have a duty to change this narrative and I intend to make that my personal priority in the year ahead,” he told an audience at the offices of the health and care think tank the King’s Fund in London.
“My overarching personal priority as president will be: changing the public narrative about the care system – I am passionate about getting a more balanced view of our care system into political and public discourse.”
Limits of the state
He added that there was a need to ensure that the balance between social workers working with families and intervening in family life is right.
“We should decide what the state is for and what its limits are,” he said. “It’s our relationships with each other that is critical; the state doesn’t hold all the answers.
“Where we need to intervene we should do so decisively and with the welfare of children at the heart of all we do, but we intervene too often and sometimes too readily. Children, young people, their families and communities are more resilient than we give them credit for.
“Social workers and other professionals can on occasions act in a way that is formulaic and reactionary, the most skilled know how to work with, rather than doing unto children and families.
“We should not forget that the Children Act itself as well has having the paramount welfare of children at its heart, also asks us to balance that principle with the rights of children to live in their own families. We should always continue to debate whether we have that balance properly calibrated.”
Hill also said there is a need for closer work between children’s services and adult social care to build resilience in parents.
“There remains effectively an underclass of families often repeating intergenerational cycles of deprivation, lack of opportunity and poor outcomes and we need to focus harder and do better,” he said. “Improving outcomes for children means breaking the cycle of adult disadvantage. Good social work for adults also helps children.”
He said he wanted the ADCS to strengthen its work with the adult social care directors association ADASS and ensure that the government’s social work reform agenda “recognises the link between adults and children’s social work”.