Please enable JavaScript.  This webapp requires JavaScript to work.

Solace blog

16th October 2015

Reflections from the National Children and Adult Services (NCAS) Conference

I returned yesterday evening from two days back in Bournemouth for the National Children and Adult Services (NCAS) Conference, hosted by the LGA, ADCS, and ADASS. There was a mixed mood amongst the conference. On the one hand, as at the Solace conference, the watch word seems to be “devolution”, although with an additional byword of “integration” in this case, with many waiting with a mixture of excitement and anxiety for the Spending Review announcement next month. On the other hand, children’s and adult’s services are for many authorities the area where they are facing the most pressure, with growing demand and ever-reducing funding the constant backdrop. With ‘business as usual’ such a struggle, as many who are excited by the prospect seem understandably sceptical about the ultimate panacea that integration and devolution will prove to be, with issues such as market sustainability, workforce recruitment and retention and overall funding recurring themes in both areas. And, unlike at the Solace conference, the added presence of elected members brings a slightly different political edge to questions from the floor, particularly over funding.

Perhaps as Solace members might expect, there was a slight charge to the reception representatives from Ofsted and NHS England received. For the former, Solace were name-checked in relation to our joint submission with ADCS and the LGA on the Joint Targeted Area Inspection proposals, and I will be hoping to send a bigger update on Ofsted in the coming weeks. A common theme for the latter seemed to be the impenetrability of NHS England and the trouble this is causing some colleagues in the push to integration. Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell MP received a rougher ride.

Across the conference though, there seemed a willingness to try to pull together to meet some of the challenges ahead, despite the potential risk of fragmentation under devolution. In particular, interesting case studies were proudly shared on areas such as early intervention, and in community-led care, and this – the ability to come together to hear from colleagues from up and down the country – seems to be the real benefit of conferences like this, more so than hearing, to an extent, what we already know about cost pressures or why integration is important.

I attended the following sessions. If you would like more detailed feedback, do let me know:

“Care Act six months on: what difference has it made?”, chaired by Harold Bodmer (Norfolk CC, ADASS), with speakers Simon Medcalf (Department of Health), Cheryl Wales and Kate Dudley (Kingston Carers)

“The future of inspection – a sector led approach?, with Cllr David Simmonds (LB Hillingdon, LGA), Alison O’Sullivan (Kirklees, ADCS) and Eleanor Schooling (Ofsted)

An update from Samantha Jones, Director of New Care Models, NHS England

An address from Lucy Powell MP, Shadow Education Secretary

“20/20 vision – looking back and casting forward with Stephen Dorrell MP” (who had just the day before been appointed Chair of the NHS Confederation – a dinner and drinks reception hosted by the Guardian and KPMG

“Devolution of health and care – opportunities for integration and localism”, chaired by Cllr Colin Noble (Norfolk CC, LGA), with speakers Stephanie Butterworth (representing Greater Manchester), Richard Samuel (Hampshire CCGs) and Richard Humphries (King’s Fund)

“Early Intervention – Improving Lives, Saving Money” – with speakers from The Children’s Society, Action for Children and the Early Intervention Foundation

An update from Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner

By Helen Reeves, Senior Policy Officer, Solace