Councillor Gillian Ford, Deputy Chair of the Children and Young People Board, reflects on this year's National Children and Adult Services Conference in Bournemouth.
It was a busy but interesting week at the National Children and Adult Services Conference, Bournemouth. I hope the following whistle stop tour of the conference sessions I attended will be of interest.
SEND reform implementation: what’s working and why
The Children and Families Act resulted in the system supporting children and young people with Special Educational Need and Disability (SEND) undergoing significant reform. Chairing the session, there was a call for a joint Children’s Government Department and noted the lack of an NHS England Children’s department. There is a need for strong leadership, good parent forums and it is critical for all agencies to work together when developing Education Health and Care Plans. Local authorities need to be proactive in finding children with SEND and you should avoid using acronyms when working with children and families.
LGA and ACDS
I had the pleasure of seeing the Social Care Task Group report finally launched, titled Bright Futures. This has been cross-party working with Cllr Dick Madden (Conservative) Chair, Jon Hubbard (Liberal Democrats), Antoinette Bramble (Labour) and me on behalf of the Independent Group. I hope you find it as exciting as we do, with offers and recommendations for action.
At the same session the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) launched its report A Country that works for all Children. This focuses on a number of areas including poverty and the child’s welfare.
Mental health and children and young people looked after: a new approach
As previously discussed I have been the LGA representative on the Expert Panel for Looked After Children’s Mental Health. This session referred to the panel’s work and asked the audience to discuss the suggestion of having a Virtual Mental Health Lead in each area. Comments included: why virtual, they should be locally determined, and a distrust and confidence in health. The debate continues!
Dementia: providing effective, integrated post diagnosis support
I chaired this powerful session with a talk from a lady living with dementia. Dementia Connect is being developed to be rolled out across the country and consideration needs to be given to housing needs. Packs need to be provided on diagnosis, providing information on the local offer and there needs to be a simplification on annual form filling , for example Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independent Payment (PIP) applications. Consideration needs to be given to safe places rather than hospitals or police stations and a best practice framework is being developed. Consideration is also being given to the training providers and minimum levels of training expected of the workforce.
Minister of State
Minister of State for Children and Families Robert Goodwill MP addressed the conference announcing £20m for the development of sector-led improvement in Children’s Services and announced the expansion of the Partnership Programme.
The Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield, announced, an April publication of the Stability Index data. Elective home education was also discussed. I will be updating you on this after my meeting with Lord Soley on his Bill on elective home education.
Local Safeguarding Boards
The Alan Wood Review suggested that local safeguarding should not have to be delivered by Safeguarding Boards, giving local discretion on how safeguarding is undertaken. The change will require local authorities, police and health to work together. This will require robust partnership and relationship development, if not already in place. There is a need for cross boundary and regional engagement due to evolving practices including County Line, gang culture and child sexual exploitation(CSE), and further development of engagement with schools must take place. There is a question as to who will take the lead out of the three agencies. The proposed reintroduction of Public, Social, Health Education (PSHE) as a statutory subject in the Children’s Act is welcome.
Understanding spend in children’s services
The LGA has commissioned Newton Europe to better understand the local spending variations, against a backdrop of varying 251 returns and differing spends. Chairing the session, we heard how they want to work with a sample of local authorities and intend to develop a deeper and more complete picture of council spend on children’s services, while identifying areas of good practice and the underlying levers driving cost and performance.
Councillor Gillian Ford, Deputy Chair of the Children and Young People Board