Almost two-thirds of children’s services directors in England are women, the highest since records began, according to a new report.
Annual analysis by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) found that 97 of the 152 upper tier local authorities in England (64%) had female directors as of 31 March 2022.
This is the highest number since ADCS began reporting the figures in 2008, with the proportions of female and male DCSs steadily diverging since 2018, the last time the split was around 50/50.
But it is still lower than the proportion of women in the wider children’s social work workforce (87%, according to Department for Education figures).
Steve Crocker, ADCS president, said: “The DCS community is now much more diverse in terms of gender compared to other domains of diversity and reflects the good succession planning that has been put in place by many councils.”
Ongoing lack of ethnic diversity among DCSs
ADCS’s figures also highlighted the continuing disparity between the representation of people from Black and other ethnic minority backgrounds among directors (5%) and among the wider workforce (23%).
Of the 94 directors who shared their ethnicity, 1% identified as Black African; 1% as Black Caribbean; 1% as white and Black Caribbean and 2% as white and Asian. Meanwhile, 82% identified as white British; 4% as white Irish; 8% as ‘other’ white, while one director preferred not to state their ethnicity.
Those percentages remain essentially unchanged since 2020, the first time ADCS’s analysis reported on ethnicity among DCSs.
Crocker said in a statement: “There remains not enough directors from Black and other ethnic backgrounds across the country, however, we know that leadership programmes within the sector are directly addressing this issue.
“It is vitally important that our workforce reflects our communities, a person’s ethnicity, gender or disability is irrelevant to their capability to do the job,” he added.
Crocker added that ADCS wanted children receiving services to “see themselves reflected in our workforce, and to know they too can aspire to a future career in children’s services”.
Permanent director appointments below average
There were 47 changes of director at 36 local authorities in the year to 31 March 2022, a higher turnover than in 2020-21 but lower than the three previous years.
Councils appointed relatively few permanent directors (18) during 2021-22, compared with an average of 20 since 2007-8. This is much higher than last year’s record low of 12 permanent appointments but well below a high of 27 in 2017-18.
As of 31 March 2022, there were 12 interim post holders, nine of which have been in post for six months or less.
“Succession planning is increasingly important in the complex world of children’s services, and all children’s services departments are looking at how they can develop and nurture the talent of future senior leaders,” Crocker said in his statement.
“It is positive to see experience and expertise remaining within the sector and the data shows nearly all (17) of those being appointed as a permanent DCS in 2021-22 were stepping up from assistant director/second tier level.
“Due to the statutory nature of the role, there must be a single and ultimate line of accountability for outcomes for children and young people in a locality at any given time and the use of short-term interim arrangements being made prior to a permanent appointment is commonplace.”
‘Twin-hat’ directors continue to dwindle
There are fewer children’s services directors who also hold statutory responsibility for adults’ services (22) than at any point since 2010, according to ADCS’s figures.
Since a peak of 61 ‘twin-hat’ directors with responsibilities for both services in 2015, there has been a steady decline year by year.
“Local authorities continue to combine and disaggregate services to meet local needs and since ADCS started recording DCS changes over two thirds (108 of 152) of local authorities have had a ‘twin-hat’ director at some point,” Crocker said in his statement.
“It is likely this picture will change as local authorities consider which arrangements are best for them. What remains important is that there is always a DCS in place who remains accountable for children’s outcomes locally.”
Directors staying in post for three years
Current directors’ average tenure is 34 months, with 36 months for permanent and six months for interim post holders.
This is similar to longer term averages of 31 months overall, with 39 months for permanent and seven months for interim appointments.
A programme aimed at increasing the pool of children’s services directors called ‘upon’ opened in 2020, funded by the Department for Education and run by the Staff College, Institute of Public Care, Skills for Care and GatenbySanderson.