President's Blog
November 2008

With the Liverpool conference over, autumn virtually upon us, its worth spending a little time reflecting on just how staggering an event the annual conference was this year. I cant think that there will be many people who were there who will forget it in a long while.

Each conference, in a way, is unique and has its special qualities and strengths. But every now and then a particularly memorable one occurs. Liverpool was one which, in my estimation, completely exceeded all the even high expectations that had been laid upon it - in every category.

The attendance was phenomenal: the highest ever among delegates. While exhibitors stands seemed to have, by and large, moved to a new generation of design. I wont say that I wouldnt have been surprised to have walked into a Tardis - but some of them could have fooled me that I had!

The policy discussions and input were of the highest order. The logjam to launch this, proclaim that, announce the other and let the world know about something else, can resemble the M6 in the rush hour - and with four ministers and two Secretaries of State breathing down our necks you can imagine things got rather crowded.

It was superb having the new Care Services Minister Phil Hope with us and we were really very grateful that he managed to go to so many functions (including the launch of this website), meet so many people, and say so many things.

It was also great fun to have Peter White and his colleague Joe Kent from the BBCs You and Yours programme with us throughout the conference. They broadcast live on both days, and put together a lot of material for use later on. Thanks must go, too, to Ed Balls for a truly stimulating address, and to our own Health Secretary Alan Johnson for some well-honed comments and promises - particularly on getting the BMA signed up to enhance GP services for people with learning disabilities.

Seeming to dominate at least the adult care side of the conference equation were the nuanced and carefully calibrated discussions about the way we go forward on two complementary, not contradictory, policy fronts. On the one hand we need to be pushing ahead on the transformation agenda, with National Director Jeff Jeromes support, extending the scope of personalisation, advocacy, information provision and individual budgeting.

This is a convoy which is moving at very different speeds, all in the same direction.

That will be something that well have to live with, provided of course that none of the vessels moves so slowly as to be left behind, adrift in an empty sea. Nor so swiftly that they hit unseen rocks beyond the range of rescue craft.

On the other hand the increased independence and freedom this emphasis on personalised services brings mustn't lead to our taking our eyes off safeguarding. It isnt the case that concentrating on one will lead to a neglect of the other. Both safeguarding and independence can be accommodated within a single policy framework - and some of the more creative sessions in Liverpool sought to establish the practice mechanisms through which that can be achieved.

Last, but not least, the splendid evening in the Anglican Cathedral. Djangology from Richmond, North Yorkshire as we came in. Then a trio of superb violinists (Red Hot Strings) at one end of the second longest Cathedral in the world, and the wonderful Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Choir at the other. Brilliant light and acoustics; superb food magnificently provided to nearly 950 appreciative guests. The evening was a credit to the Cathedral authorities and the team from ADASS and Creative Realisation who conceived, organised and ran the event.

Truly unforgettable!

John Dixon,