ADASS presidential speech - Stephen Chandler


Good morning everyone. 

Thank you James for those kind words and thank you for all the hard work you have done as President in a year that none of us could ever have anticipated.   Being president of ADASS is a major responsibility and role in what were ‘normal times’, but to do it during a pandemic, remotely, and with such impact, is an impossible act to follow and you really do deserve our thanks.  Thank you also to Julie Ogley as the outgoing immediate past president for her leadership, commitment and support.   Thank you to ADASS members – it is because of you I am here and I’m especially pleased that I’ll be working closely with Sarah McClinton as Vice President, and Beverley Tarka as policy lead.


For me it is a great privilege to become ADASS President, and one I look forward to with equal fear and excitement.




Let me just continue with a few more ‘Thank You’s and apologies for anyone that I may appear to have overlooked. Firstly, I would like to start by recognising all of the hard work undertaken by Cathie Williams and the ADASS team in preparing for this week’s Spring Seminar, it’s a lot of hard work, organisation and commitment to get to this point. Thank you also to all of our speakers, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that this is a really impressive agenda - not just in the range of topics we are going to cover, but the calibre and standing of the speakers covering them. 

Thank you to Oxfordshire for their support: Leader, Cabinet member, Chief Executive, system partners, and finally but especially my Deputy, Karen Fuller, who will be ensuring the service continues to deliver for our communities as my focus shifts to this role.


ADASS has a number of committed business partners who provide not only much-needed sponsorship to fund our central team – but also work with us on mutually beneficial policy aims. This year we collaborated with the TSA (Technology Enabled Care Services Association) on a Commission looking at integrating technology into social care, along with sponsors Microsoft, Tunstall, PA Consulting and OLM. The report is available now, with a compelling vision and recommendations for councils, tech providers and the Government. An important policy report is also about to be published on the future of Intermediate Care with our partners Impower.  And, to all our other partners supporting us throughout the year, a special thanks.


And finally, a really big thank you to all of you, without whom I would not be here. Your leadership, your direction, your relentless determination and work, your support during the last year – these have all really helped to manage the impact of Covid. Without you, those of us who are older and disabled, carers and care staff, our most unequal citizens, would have been impacted even more by Covid 19.


 This morning I would like to talk to you about three key areas

  • A reflection on the last 12 months
  • Where we are at this point in time
  • Finally, what I believe the next 12 months offers us - the role that we as leaders have during this time and share with you my view of what our opportunities are, and my ask of you all.

A little bit about me though as I begin. I began my career training to be a nurse, initially in mental health, then in learning disabilities and finally within general nursing. Having moved from the north of Ireland where I did my mental health and learning disability nurse trainings, to England at the end of the 80s, I’ve worked in the NHS in London, Bristol, Southampton and Hampshire before moving via a joint commissioning appointment in Worcestershire to work permanently in local government for the last 15 years. I have been lucky to be a director in 3 different authorities: Shropshire, Somerset and now Oxfordshire, and I hope that my experiences will assist me in my presidential year.  I’ve always worked with people, for people, and really do believe that it’s only by working together as citizens - people with real experience, and professionals - that we can truly ensure everyone maximises their potential.  I don’t normally talk about my family but I will briefly mention my parents. My Dad lived with a long term condition from his 40s until his death in his 70s and whilst initially the impact on his independence was minimal, the last 15 years of his life required my mum to become his permanent carer.   The impact this had on her resonates even to this day nearly 10 years since his passing.   My family’s experience has always reaffirmed for me the importance of maximising independence and support not just for the individual but also those caring and providing support.


The last 12 months


Let me begin then by briefly reflecting on the last 12 months. There will be lots of reference to the impact of Covid throughout the seminar and clearly it is necessary to focus on the terrible cost that Covid has had.   That cost has been at an individual level: the over 850 care workers and nearly 50 Social Workers, and the many older and disabled people who have lost their lives (one third of all deaths have been of people living in care homes); but it’s also at a cost to families and communities.  We also know the impact is sometimes not as obvious, but it is nevertheless still there.

We are just analysing the results from our latest  survey of Directors. Early results suggest   that since November 2020 nearly 70% have seen increases in referrals and requests from people experiencing mental ill health, 48% from people who haven’t been admitted to hospital, three quarters increases in people being discharged from hospital, and 57% reported increases in need relating to domestic abuse and older and disabled people. We will say more in the next few weeks.


We will each have stories and accounts of those that have shared their experiences with us, or we have been involved with.   For me, it’s the account of my friend Marissa (a woman with a learning disability who lives independently with support) talking about how during the first wave her routine support workers suddenly stopped coming, and then visited but only interacted with her through the window from her garden, to her recent concerns about the safety and availability of the vaccine.  It’s also the challenge I have had from families who have wanted to visit their loved ones but cannot get to see them in their care homes.  It’s also the providers calling my council in tears because they are afraid of the risks they posed to their clients and were struggling to source PPE for their staff to safely carry out the very support they wanted to provide, and I commissioned them to do.


Whilst nationally the impact has in part been highlighted, it’s often been through the lens of people working and living within care homes.  What has not been highlighted strongly enough is the disproportionate impact on the poorest and most marginalised in our communities.   Covid has shown the impact of a lack of investment, long-term planning, and resilience in the social care sector.  It has shown the lack of value that successive governments have placed on our lives when we are older, disabled or caring for others.  

We must use our collective experiences to shape our future, but more on that a little later.   Covid has however also demonstrated for me some of the best of individuals, communities, our fantastic support providers, and those involved in social care in its broadest sense -  and last but by no means least, local government as leaders.   There are amazing examples up and down this country of how individuals responded, how communities worked differently, how organisations providing support responded, and how local government played a part both practically and through its leadership of place. You will all, like me, be aware of the creative ways in which social workers and providers have worked to maintain support or to deliver support during lock down when buildings were no longer available.  We cannot and must not allow this to be overlooked or to only be seen as a pandemic response. 

Each and everyone in this virtual room will have played their individual part, and it is through you that we have coped, albeit at a terrible price. But it is also through you that we can design a different future.  Let me say a big thank you to all of you for everything you have done and acknowledge the grief of those who have lost their lives, those of us who are bereaved and haven’t been able to grieve properly, and those of us who are traumatised.


Where are we now?


Let’s move on then to where we are now. As I said a few moments ago, adult social care has seen a raising of its profile both in relation to the terrible impact of Covid on people, our workforce and our organisations but also in the context of creativity, localism, communities, partnership and leadership. This is the best of human nature. I believe it is incumbent upon us to ensure as we move forward, we not only highlight the experiences and impact but also use that to demonstrate collectively the importance to change and our opportunity to shape that change.


I believe as individuals, as members of the broader adult social care family, as partners and as leaders, that if we work together we can shape the tone and timing of reform.  In doing so we have to be bold and firm, making sure our values shine through, just as they have in our achievements over the last year. We must be confident in our approach - seeing ourselves as part of a much bigger social movement for change in how we support each other and how we are supported when we are disabled, at the end of our lives, when we need protection or someone to safeguard our rights if we are being abused, neglected or exploited.


Let me focus for a moment on ADASS and you in the main as members. As you know, we are seen as being one of the leading voices of adult social care with a focus on working in partnership to transform the experience of social care.   There are 152 local authorities with adult social care responsibility, that means there are 152 directors of adult services, goodness knows how many assistant directors, principal social workers, service managers, team managers within councils.   When I look at what that offers us  - the span of experience, thinking particularly of directors currently in post, ranging from early noughties  (shout out to Cath Roff,  Julie Ogley, Richard Webb and Keith Hinkley) to some of those new directors who have taken up their roles earlier this year (Shout out to Tanya Miles and Leeanne Farach our most recent DASSs). We also have Associate Members who bring experience from even longer ago and give us the shoulders we stand on. That brings not just a wealth of experience, but also knowledge innovation motivation and commitment, WOW.


Many of my predecessors have in their opening speeches to Spring Seminar set out a desire for and indeed a need for reform, and I was hesitant about referring to it given the lack of progress in securing funding and change to develop the care we want over many years.   Indeed, many things have been lost in the years of reducing budgets. However, we know the Prime minister said as he entered Downing Street that he would ‘Fix the crisis in Social Care once and for all’.   This is important as it recognises the crisis we face but also recognises it’s not a simple task.   We have been told that the government is planning to put into the public domain some initial thinking and plans, and I hope, in this role, to support you in ensuring our voices are heard, our partners voices are heard and the voices of people who need care and support are heard and used to shape that reform - and to ensure it happens.  


I do believe as a sector we are in a positive position to contribute. As ADASS we have  developed the ‘9 statements to help shape adult social care reform’  but similarly our partners in the LGA have set their 7 principles for reform, not to mention the work by Social Care Future.  I could go on, as many organisations and partners have described what’s important as part of future change in their view, producing a remarkably consistent opinion about what’s needed.  There is also the work done by Social Care Future through the ‘Whose Social Care Future is it Anyway?’ inquiry, led by people with lived experience who I am keen to hear from.


So where is this all leading me….?


Moving forward – the next 12 months and beyond:


Finally, and in my view most importantly, let me talk to you about the next 12 months and beyond, and what I think it offers us. Hopefully by now I’ve emphasised just how important working together with a clear focus is and highlighted the well-developed and consistent views of what is needed.   I hope I have demonstrated to you the power and impact that this has had and the valuable role that we all, that you all can and must play as we move forward.   

As we move forward this has got to be at the centre of everything we all do. As leaders in social care it is our responsibility to ensure we do everything to positively promote the value and impact we have on all of us as citizens and specifically those of us needing help and support.


Reframing the narrative


We all have a responsibility to raise the profile of ASC, in our teams, in the organisations we work for, in our communities, with our elected representatives in politics, with our partners. We have to call out much more the positive impact we have each and every day on our communities, the people we work with, the organisations we work with and the partnerships we exist within.  We need to boldly call out our impact, describe the importance of what we do, emphasise it’s for you if you are a young person with a learning disability who’s enabled to live a good life, it’s for me if I am a parent managing the impact of a life-changing accident or illness, it’s for you if you are managing a long term health condition or social circumstance. It’s for you if you are older and managing the impacts of old age, loneliness, dementia or illness. And it is so much more – for you who sleeps rough, is mentally ill and an addict. It’s for me if I have a learning disability or mental ill health and get caught up with the police for want of care and support. It’s for you if the only person you ever see abuses you.  Social work and social care are about all of us; all of our lives which should be good lives, could be better lives. We get it, journalists get it, NHS leaders get it, many of the public and politicians get it. Select Committees from the Commons and Lords get it. I believe a powerful, positive account of the impact of ASC has a great chance of being heard by government and forming part of changes to paying for and funding care and support and making the changes to the care and support we want. However, it has to be loud, unified, positive and engaging.


I will be a friend of government and indeed of all politicians as we shape and support reform, and just in case you are anxious, that will include being a critical friend when necessary.   We won’t do this in isolation. We will do it together building on the fantastic relationships my predecessors in this role have developed, as well as those that exist across the country.  


So, my ask of you is to be confident, to be ambitious for us when we need care and support for our families and our communities, and to help us make the change happen. Speak or write to your local politicians and MPs in a personal or a professional capacity. Let local press and media know about the difference that is made when someone gets good support or changes an abusive relationship. Support your colleagues and partners to do so. And tell us what you are doing so we can celebrate it too.


Thank you and enjoy the rest of the Spring Seminar.