Record number of female directors of children’s services, report finds

Annual ADCS analysis shows almost two-thirds of directors are women, but the proportion who are Black or from other ethnic minorities continues to be far lower than in the wider workforce

Photo: AnthonyJess/Adobe Stock

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.

7 Responses to Record number of female directors of children’s services, report finds

  1. Eboni April 24, 2022 at 10:27 pm #

    My analysis of this data is that being Caucasian or white-asian or white Irish or white black means you are 4 times more likely to progress as a woman. White women continue to pick their replicate. Black racism is prolific against black Carribean or black African. The data evidence is clear. I remember when racists used to say please show me your evidence of racism following racial slurs from non black professionals or micro aggressive behaviours. Now the evidence data is racially clear black racist professionals say now but how is your allegation of racism racist. Black racism and oppressive practices and discrimination is entrenched in all key agencies every day. White professionals do not want to recruit black staff and this applies to career advancement. But this is common knowledge and is as acceptable as it is that you brush your teeth with white toothpaste everyday. Anti-oppressive practices is rarely discussed let alone included into training and development. White privilege is an acceptable part of white British culture and its embedded in wealth management of white professional staff. The slave trade traditions were born out of two fundamental streams. The first is white privilege and the second is wealth management strategies. White Caucasian want to remain the top earners and remain in the top posts. Black professionals with skills knowledge and experience remain assistant’s which is also a theme taken from the same black slave trade years. Institutionally the workplace and the social care market remains steeped in traditions. These traditions remain at the heart of all key agencies in England and internationally. Councils are micro based plantations where privilege of white professionals and their peers remains intact. Let’s discuss my narrative further however I believe white professionals already know this information. But it does not improve their situation for the future because being white is a business model based on their own needs to continue with financial power and prosperity. White service users experience a better service support and outcomes based on the same model and systems that keep our institutional Caucasian white.

  2. Terry April 29, 2022 at 12:09 pm #

    The claimed “ultimate lines of accountability” are strangely rarely owned when inquiries into neglect and death are reported though. When was the last time a DCS actually accepted personal responsibility? Social workers get disciplined, some get dismissed. The worst that befalls a DCS it seems is a minimum 5 figure severance pay and a new job in another LA at the same grade.And if they are unlucky not to paid more then as when they failed it’s made more palatable by the misnomered golden hello award. Buggins turn is hardly succession planning is it?

  3. Tahin May 3, 2022 at 9:53 am #

    Brilliant. I look forward to the more inclusive, empowering, compassionate, person focused, needs not budget based and more positive social work that we are told is absent because of the prominence of “stale, male, old, white men”. Nothing to do with class and ideology obviously.

  4. Petrushka May 4, 2022 at 8:10 am #

    “The DCS community”……

    • Midas May 5, 2022 at 3:38 pm #

      They are all on a journey searching for their truth.

  5. Brian May 7, 2022 at 1:53 pm #

    Yes there is a bit of Oprah Winfrey fluff and bubbles to this and it can’t be long before “bathroom” replaces toilet in the ADCS lexicon but this is progress of a sort so we should acknowledge it.

  6. Christine May 9, 2022 at 8:04 am #

    I applaud the one Director who refused to indulge the ADCS and did not declare their ethnicity. It must be very frustrating not being able to place them into the ‘right’ “ethnicity domain”.

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