November can be an odd month. We are not yet at the end of the year but are planning for it. I don’t know about you, but I am being gently reminded by comms people that I need to start thinking about writing end of year messages; various emails are coming through about preparations for Christmas meals, but my attention is being turned to assuring we can do the best we can for our most vulnerable over the holiday period. Yet conversely, November’s focus is also on next year’s budget; our Regional Team are keen to ensure they get first dibs on my calendar, my PA has similar thoughts, and literally as I sat down to plan this piece, an email dropped in from Ofsted wanting to discuss next year’s Annual Conversation programme!
November, I have concluded, is neither in this year or next. It sits in its own twilight…
Looking at this from a serious perspective though, we may be excused for thinking that one year is like the next. To some degree of course, it is. So many of those things we have done in 2023, we will do again in 2024, and beyond. But in Telford & Wrekin we are implementing Family Networks, so I know that we will be doing many things differently over the coming year. We have just had the Child and Family Social Worker Workforce Government consultation response, which may not have offered all we had hoped for, but will no doubt change the way we work. I was also interested to read ADCS’s recent paper on Principles for a system of extended family care, an area of practice which I hope is going to be re-shaped over the coming year.
Earlier I mentioned budget setting. It seems that we have entered a second wave of austerity yet are only just out of the last. Savings need to be made and for some, the sense of urgency is greater, but I can’t help but wonder if we won’t all find ourselves in a precarious financial position sooner or later. So, there is another factor that will impact service delivery and the way we do things next year. It may be that we have to scale back services or reconsider how we use specific roles, but things are likely to change.
In October John Pearce, in his Presidential capacity, attended our regional DCS Network meeting. It would be of no surprise for you to hear that much of the above was discussed with him and I am sure that some of the same will be discussed with ADCS Vice President Andy Smith next year. But when I reflect back on the meeting notes from past President Steve Crocker’s visit in 2022, I see that we were speculating on what Josh MacAlister’s recommendations might actually mean in his independent review of children’s social care, and how the Government would respond to them. I particularly noted the then position of ADCS regarding Regional Care Co-operatives (for those of you who don’t recall, it wasn’t favourable). So, in some respects we have moved on, whilst accepting that progress in other areas is slow.
Once we have got through this twilight period and are well and truly focused on 2024, we might all get to appreciate that yes, we will have much of the same old same old, but it doesn’t need to be. In short, let’s not forget our role, both individually in our organisations and collectively, as regions and a national organisation. We are the game changers, making sure that the future is reassuringly familiar yet productively different.
Executive Director – Childrens Services
Teflord & Wrekin Council
First Published as a contribution to the ADCS blog