We are currently in a state of national emergency; the coronavirus pandemic is affecting us all, every family, every community and every service in local government as we try to get used to new and temporary ways of working and living.
The situation is unprecedented, there is an element of learning as we go along but I have I have been proud to see local authorities, and their partners, up and down the country rising to the challenge to ensure important services can continue. This includes ensuring vulnerable children and families are safe and provided for. I am incredibly grateful for the dedication and commitment of the social workers, teachers, residential children’s home workers, NHS staff and all other key workers who are on the frontline as well as our foster carers.
It has been helpful having public health within local authorities at this time, however, the current crisis has also highlighted existing fragilities in the systems within which we work, such as ongoing difficulties to recruit, and retain, enough social workers, which add to our practical challenges.
Locally we are working very hard to overcome these issues as fast as possible by redeploying existing qualified staff to other roles where safely possible as our staff fall ill or need to self-isolate. The Coronavirus Act has made it easier for social workers who have recently left the profession to re-register to help with these workforce shortages and Local Government Association colleagues have created a website that enables those offering their help to connect with local employers.
The Government has provided children’s social care with some welcome funding, this money will contribute to our continued response to this crisis.
Similarly, the Department for Education, Public Health England, HM Courts and Tribunals Service and others, have made a raft of guidance and resources available to support our work (at the time of writing more than 60 pieces of guidance have been published and this list continues to grow). I understand the desire for more guidance but it can’t cover every single scenario in these uncertain and constantly changing circumstances, so local authorities are, and will need to keep, following their business continuity plans and exercising local judgement in response to individual cases and circumstances.
The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) has been in daily contact with the Government to help find sensible practicable solutions to the challenges we face, keeping children’s best interests centre stage.
In times of crisis comes opportunity, and I hope this spirit of working together for the benefit of children and families continues long after the pandemic is over.
Jenny Coles is the incoming president of the ADCS