Day 1 - Wednesday 27/4/22

Wednesday was the first day of the ADASS Spring Seminar 2022. It was the first time since 2019 that we’ve been able to hold an in-person event which allows those in attendance to share their experiences and practice, as well as offer to support to one another.

Several themes ran through the day- leadership, reform, recovery, redesign, the need to work with people with lived experience and building new and different alliances to ensure the adult social care message is heard loud and clear.

The day kicked off with the President, Stephen Chandler, welcoming attendees to the event and reflecting on what has been an eventful, challenging, yet hugely rewarding tenure as the figurehead of ADASS.

The first session of the day focused on Leading Through Reform. The session, chaired by the ADASS President, had an excellent panel consisting of Don Brereton CB (Carers UK), Sally Warren (King’s Fund), Dr Anita Charlesworth CBE (Health Foundation) and Dr Matt Taylor CBE (NHS Confed). Panellists highlighted the need to think about the nature of recovery for adult social care as we move into what the Government calls the ‘living with covid’ phase of the pandemic. This work on recovery must include focus on people who access care and support, their families, carers and the workforce. On the latter, there has been a real values conflict for people working in social care. They have wanted to provide high quality care, but for a number of reasons have not been able to, which has been the cause of many people exiting the profession.

After the plenary, attendees had the choice of several interesting and engaging workshops led by Principal Social Workers (PSWs) which were extremely well attended. The workshops were on The Role of PSWs in Leading Through Reform, Lessons from the Pandemic- A Practice Perspective, Assurance in Practice and Anti-Racism in Social Work – why do we still need to talk about this?

The final plenary of the day Faith, Care, Community, chaired by Cathie Williams, Chief Executive of ADASS, had contributions from Dr Anna Dixon MBE Chair of the Archbishops’ Commission on Reimagining Care and Rosemary MacDonald UK Community Foundations (UKCF). UKCF is a national network of community foundations, bringing together people and organisations that want to improve their communities.

Anna highlighted that the commission has focused on values, as opposed to money and structures. The importance of changing public attitudes so care and caring are more highly valued, enabling people to live a good life and the role of communities and faith communities.

Rosemary highlighted that collaboration between different communities is essential, as is statutory and voluntary sector collaboration. She made a plea to those people in the room that they invest in things that already works and not to try and to not try and reinvent what organisations in the voluntary and community sector are doing. It’s vital that councils are flexible in their approach and don’t try and control everything, that will create the conditions to thrive.

Day 2 - Thursday 28/4/22

It was an early start to Seminar today with a well-attended breakfast workshop led by TPXimpact focussed on how we involve people at the centre of our planning. It certainly generated a lot of debate and the sharing of practice examples.

The Annual General Meeting reflected upon a phenomenal year for ADASS and its Members.  We should have confidence and pride in what we have achieved in the most difficult of circumstances. ADASS is a strong, growing, ambitious and financially robust organisation which has stood up to the challenges. Members contributed to a policy discussion on ADASS past, present and future and how we continue to adapt and respond to our members needs. There was no better demonstration of this than having ten former and current ADASS Presidents in the room, what a photo opportunity and how great to have their support! We also welcomed Melanie Brooks as our new Trustee lead for Policy and Practice. Congratulations Mel.

The AGM also signals the formal change of President’s as Stephen stepped down and Sarah picked up the baton. Thank you Stephen for all you have done in the past 12 months. Thanks also to James whose term as Immediate Past President has ended.

In her first speech as ADASS President Sarah shared her early passion for social justice and the importance of strong communities which led her to a career in social work and social care.  Sarah shared her family story and emphasised the importance of supporting people to remain at home. She also reflected on the impact which Covid has had on individuals and families (disproportionally for some) and that social care should never be treated as an afterthought again. On a more positive note, social care has been magnificent throughout Covid, we have supported more people at home with more complex needs. The mettle of social care reform has been grasped and we have the tools between us all to shape the future through inspired, creative and determined leadership.  One clear message which everyone agreed is that social care is not fixed.

The Seminar continued with a plenary on ensuring that people and places are the heart of integration. Jon Mansell challenged us all to think about integration from the bottom up instead of top down explaining that the people who draw on services are the ‘beginning, middle and end of the answer’. We were also reminded by panel members that integration was not necessarily about structures but was about ensuring the leadership culture was right.  Leadership needs to be distributed and respectful and based upon a contribution model where everyone puts something in  and gets something out in return.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion remains an ADASS priority. Bev Tarka and Cath Roff, as Co-Chairs of the ADASS EDI action group, gave an update on progress and challenged members to feedback their ideas about how we all collectively implement changes in our own local authorities and with ADASS nationally. There was a strong reminder and challenge for ADASS to be brave and bold when it comes to EDI as where we are at the moment is not good enough. A message for us all to take away and act upon.

The afternoon was one of workshops, group discussions and a little speed dating. Firstly, we need to thank our ADASS sponsors for the excellent offering of workshops. One of the many positive aspects of Spring Seminar is dedicated time for new and shared learning and our sponsors certainly provide this input and opportunity. Secondly, we handed the floor to all ADASS regions in a speed dating format where delegates moved around the room hearing short snippets of the best bits from each region. The regions create and generate new ideas and thinking and this was a chance to learn what colleagues are achieving elsewhere with an opportunity to steal ideas with pride.

The final plenary of the day focussed upon social justice and inclusion and how we build care and support for those who are most at risk as social exclusion. Isaac Samuels shared his story explaining how a Social Worker had helped him after years of struggling with mental ill health to find purpose and meaning in life, to have hope that things would be better, to demonstrate the importance of kindness and someone who listened. Linda Bryant and Vava Tampa also reminded us of the importance of building in capacity and time to build relationships with people and to understand the whole person and not just their care need or illness. Finally, that nothing echo’s social work more than social justice and as practitioners or people who work in social care, social justice is a decision we make or take.


Day 3 - 29/4/22

We kicked off the day with a pre-recorded video message from Gillian Keegan, MP, the Minister of State for Social Care who thanked colleagues and care staff for their contributions and provided an overview of the Government’s reform plans and proposals.  We were then joined in person by Karin Smyth, MP, the Shadow Social Care minister who sketched out some of the opposition’s positions on key aspects of recovery and reform, including that social care must come first and not be an afterthought to the NHS.

For the remainder of the seminar, we reverted to one of the key themes of this year’s event – the pivotal role of people with lived experience in designing care and support.   

The ‘Care We Want’ session was firmly rooted by Clenton Farquharson’s contribution and his challenge to put people at the heart of all conversations about reform and the future shape of care, support and safeguards.  His challenge to colleagues was to harness the power of people with lived experience - they know what they want, they know what is best for them and they know what will transform their lives. That means enabling people to be creators of the change we all want to see. 

He said that any involvement has to be both genuine and broad – ‘it must be the sum of us, not just some of us’.  He concluded that working together we can transform care, support and most importantly lives.  There was a further challenge from the floor, from another colleague with lived experience – who challenged anyone to get up, go to the toilet, shower, get dressed, brush your hair, apply make-up, and have your breakfast in just 20 to 30 minutes as disabled people are expected to every day because of time restricted care visits.

We then heard from Elsa, David and Beverley who told us about their work in Haringey to engage local residents in the co-design of key care and support services, and the role of Local Area Coordinators in connecting their communities.  They talked about their work to build back fairer, their whole family, whole community approach, and the development of shared spaces such as community lunch and super clubs. 

Their work is funded by transformation funding from the local Integrated Care System (ICS) and is firmly people and community centred.  At the heart is a collective commitment to equity as an organising principle, the importance social justice and inclusion and the primacy of partnerships. You can find out all about their work in this presentation and video here.

Beverley Tarka, the new ADASS Vice President brought the seminar to a close by providing a summary of the major discussions from the last three days.  The recurring themes of inclusive leadership, people as creators of change, and inherent value of high quality, person-centred care, support and safeguards were highlighted.  She reflected on how wonderful it is when we get it right and that we get it right when we put Isaac, Jon, Clenton and Elsa in control. 

Beverley thanked our partners, sponsors and everyone who has contributed to making this such a ‘heartening and invigorating event’ and sent us on our way with a rallying call that we can all leave Spring Seminar feeling more energised and with lots of ideas to put into practice back at base.