“We need a national review of children’s mental health services,” ADCS President says
President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), Steve Crocker, reiterates calls for a national review of children’s mental health services as well as “further and faster” action on transformational changes in children’s social care.
New ADCS President Steve Crocker has called for a national review of children’s mental health services in a speech to the ADCS Annual Conference 2022.
Directors of children’s services are responsible for all children in their area and it is those children who “almost always point to mental health and wellbeing as their biggest priority, so I am duty bound to raise it on their behalf,” the new ADCS President said.
Mr Crocker, who took over as President of the influential association of leaders in children’s services from Salford City Council’s Charlotte Ramsden earlier this year, said that the way the system is currently designed “does not work for children in acute distress”. “Despite support from all sectors, we are yet to see action from the NHS. It feels like the crisis in children’s mental health services continues to languish in the too difficult pile and that simply isn’t good enough for our children.”
The ADCS President, who also heads up children’s services in Hampshire County Council, made note of the many currently promised or ongoing transformational changes in policies affecting children and young people.
“We, the people in this room, didn’t design the current system and we are not the custodians of it, on the contrary, we are probably the first to tell you where it doesn’t work!”, Mr Crocker said of the Care Review, which made its final recommendations at the end of May. ADCS contributed to the Review, and Mr Crocker said it was “reassuring that as sector experts, we have been listened to.”
“While we do not agree with everything in it… it creates a platform and a clear framework for realising change…where significant, structural change is proposed we have to carefully test and try these proposals…We can’t repeat the mistakes of the past in implementing well intentioned policy without carefully testing the consequences and then amending policy to get it right.”
The President said that ADCS is committed to working with Government on the reform programme – “we are keen to maintain the momentum and get things moving quickly.”
Unsurprisingly, however, the issue of funding was once again addressed as leaders warned that councils are “teetering on a financial cliff edge”.
“The financial realism set out in the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care is welcome and gives an indication of how much is needed to reset the system and get it to a place where significant reform can land,” Mr Crocker said.
“Year on year we are stripping services back to fit the shrinking financial envelope rather than developing to meet the ever-changing needs that are present in our communities. This is just storing up problems for the future and we are teetering on a financial cliff edge.”
Mr Crocker said that there were “quick wins” available to the Government could make a real difference to the children’s sector, such as taking “swift action” to address the challenges around social work agencies. He called for an update to the local authority funding formula prior to the next spending review, as well as for the introduction of kinship leave to match adoption leave. While acknowledging that it was “not a quick win”, driving diversity in leadership positions was also highlighted as a priority.
The ADCS President also warned of potential issues in the Homes for Ukraine schemes, which were brought into effect very quickly to help with the crisis resulting from the war in Ukraine. The schemes, however, have been criticised by many in the sector for potential safeguarding issues.
“There are though still issues to iron out…and make sure that we have all of the right safeguards for children in place…ADCS has been calling for the Home Office and other Government departments to come together to develop a holistic view of the various resettlement schemes and the cumulative impact on place…so we can ensure parity in the treatment and support we offer anyone fleeing persecution, no matter where they come from.”
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