Having a chance to stop and reflect on where we are all at, as leaders of Children’s and Adult Social Care, was a key message at the beginning of today. Six months into the Covid-19 crisis, and anticipating further restrictions for many, being mindful of the fact that both ourselves and the staff we lead are already tired is important. As ADASS President James Bullion said in his inaugural speech, we find ourselves engaged in a grim and deadly struggle to sustain our services, against a deadly virus, trying to provide vital services for people in need, all of this while looking after ourselves, families, and friends. It was good to be reminded as well of that, that we need to look after ourselves, take time out to sustaining positivity and resilience during the long slog of autumn and winter.

 

Talking of long slogs, we clearly also have lessons to learn from our friends and colleagues who have been championing issues around equality & diversity for so many years. A key reflection for me after listening to the session on inclusive leadership was the reminder that such action has been siloed long enough, what’s needed now is to mainstream the issues. To do that, we need to know where we are in terms of the numbers of managers and senior managers who have ‘protected characteristics’ (to use the Equality Act jargon) within our services, and start thinking about changes that we, as leaders, need to make in our own organisations and our own teams. What can we each do to create the environments where we can all bring our ‘whole selves’ to work, and encourage others to do the same?

 

Listening to Clenton Farquharson at the end of the session on a future vision for Social Care was both inspiring, and also a reminder about how and why I came into social work in the first place. In the mid-1980’s, as a community service volunteer in South London, I was supporting people with learning disabilities to live independently in their own homes. At the time those projects were innovations promoted by the closing down of the large asylums and special hospitals that formed a ring in the green belt around the capital. Now, after the superheroes of the Olympics, and the arrival of more diverse depictions of people with disabilities in the media (if you haven’t seen Liz Carr’s recent family history journey on ‘Who do you think you are’, it’s a must) Clenton’s message that Social Care needs to be driven by ambition and with a practical strategy to build homes and communities that meet the needs of all their residents, was salutary. Just like with the discussions on inclusive leadership, we need to ensure that ‘Building Back Better’ includes building the social support structures that we know make the difference to people - and do so in collaboration with people and communities themselves. As Clenton said, we need the three F-words: Function, Form, and Funding, to be central to the world we create, and I’d add a fourth. It needs to be fair.

 

As Marcus Rushford has proved, it’s possible to change both public opinion and create political action with a well-argued conversation. Maybe it’s time for us to go out and start talking.