New ADCS President: Inaction on child poverty will threaten government reform agenda
The incoming president of the association representing leaders of children’s services called for a national response to child poverty, as well as a strengths-based approach to SEND and better funding for children’s services.
John Pearce has used his first speech as President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) to call on the government to address the impact of child poverty.
Mr Pearce said poverty “underpins so many of the challenges that lead families to our door,” affecting every aspect of family life.
“We desperately need a national response that firstly acknowledges this reality, but more importantly, addresses it, in a coherent, long-term way,” he told the audience of children’s services leaders at Kings Place in London earlier this week.
A recent Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) report showed that in the year ending March 2022, 29% of children living in the UK were living in relative poverty – meaning 4.2 million children were now living in households with income below 60% of the median, and representing an increase of 350,000 on the previous year.
John Pearce, who is currently Director of Children and Young People's Services at Durham County Council – and was previously a ‘twin-hatter’ director of children’s and adults’ services at South Tyneside Council – said his experience working in the North East made him passionate about the subject of child poverty.
“We cannot have the impact on children’s lives that we would all want without a joined up national policy agenda that tackles this underlying issue.”
Mr Pearce pointed to 2013 research by Loughborough University for the Child Poverty Action Group which estimated the annual cost of tackling child poverty to be £29m suggesting the figure would be even higher now, and if left unaddressed, could jeopardise important reforms.
“The foundations of the government’s social care implementation plan, ‘Stable Homes, Built on Love’, relies on the capacity of families to support themselves when many cannot. It also overlooks the fact that right across the public sector, both locally and nationally, we are spending tens of millions of pounds every year mitigating the impact of poverty on children’s lives.
“We cannot afford either the societal or financial impact of child poverty so at what point do we collectively take the decision to stop fighting the fire and address the root causes. In very simple terms, if we do not intervene now to address the dangerous levels of child poverty in our society, we seek to undermine the aspirations set out in the government’s flagship reform agenda.”
As has become tradition now for incoming ADCS Presidents, Mr Pearce said he would “continue to bang the drum” on the fundamental challenges around resources.
Even before the £2.6bn recommended in the Care Review to transform the system, councils were facing a shortfall in funding across the country. Research in 2021 by the Local Government Association (LGA) projected costs in children’s social care in England would rise by an average of £600 million each year for three years.
The new president warned that there is a “real risk” that the benefit of funding available in the short term of £200m to fund pathfinders and for national programmes of work will be undermined by core funding pressures.
Urging the need to “build a bridge” to the next Spending Review, Mr Pearce said significant risks remain, even if the full funding identified in the review is made available, as “you can’t reform a system that is fundamentally financially compromised.”
Mr Pearce also stated the need to assert a strengths-based approach to SEND and reiterated previous ADCS statements on the “significant concerns” about the government’s Illegal Migration Bill and the “damaging effect” it will have on children.
“The proposals set out in the Bill run counter to everything we hold dear in the Children Act 1989 and largely contradicts the government’s own recently articulated vision for children in our care.
“The Bill could drive increased safeguarding risks for children and families and will irreversibly distort the care system. The care system is not, nor should it be, a holding mechanism for the immigration system. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child gives primacy to the best interests of children; sadly this Bill in its current form is far removed from these aims.”
John Pearce takes over from Steve Crocker, who is retires both as President of the ADCS and as DCS at Hampshire County Council.
Mr Crocker, who was awarded an OBE in 2018 in recognition for his services to children in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight, was a firebrand during his time as President, particularly on the subject of recruitment agencies and their effect on the children’s social care workforce.
The new president said the “instability and churn” in the social work workforce in recent months is “unlike anything I’ve known in my career,” but praised the quick response of the Department for Education (DfE) in “addressing the pernicious practices of some social work agencies”.
The consultation on a set of measures to address these concerns is currently ongoing, but Mr Pearce said he was hopeful that the result would provide for a level of stability in the workforce that will benefit children and families.
Read the full speech: https://adcs.org.uk/general-subject/article/adcs-presidents-inaugural-speech-2023
£38,223 to £40,221
Most popular articles today