Colin Foster: COVID-19 LEARNINGS & PREDICTIONS

I’m sure you’d agree that our weeks and months in lockdown have been a challenge.

We’ve all had our trials, but the one thing that’s common between us, is that we’ve learned. Learned how to adapt. Learned how to cope. And learned how to remain optimistic.

Some of us have had to learn quicker – our incredible key workers.

Here, we share comments from Colin Foster, DCS Bedford Borough Council, about what he’s learned, and what he predicts for the future of Children’s Services when some kind of normality is restored.

 

THINGS I’VE LEARNED

  1. Keep children and young people at the centre of your thinking – Even in a crisis, we have to be careful about using oppressive language – describing children as ‘vulnerable children’ publically gives them a label. Help families contextualise by the language you use and the language in the national narrative.
  2. Be true to yourself – When things are breaking down in a situation which nobody has experienced before, then you have to be true to yourself and your values. Let people see the real you – because the real you is the only you you’ve got.
  3. Have courageous conversations about the right things to do – for example challenging schools to admit specific children. Send a daily email and occasional video, done on the day and reflecting how you feel on the day. Vary the content to share good practice, what’s happening and how you’re feeling – including the recognition that it is ok to feel scared or uncertain
  4. Take time to reflect and understand what corporate colleagues and partners are going through – it’s unlikely that anyone is coming to a discussion not wanting to make a positive difference. Their initial challenge will be coming from the right place for them. Understanding their view point and starting there makes it more likely that you will be able to secure the best outcome.
  5. Notice how resilient human beings are – The children’s services workforce has consistently gone above and beyond either virtually or face to face – give your amazing practitioners license to them to improve outcomes in difficult circumstances and they will rise to the challenge. Similarly with Children and families – they will often thrice where we create the time to ensure they understand the context and have equipped and enabled them rather than following dogmatic practice. But in any situation safeguarding is paramount, if you need to make a decision – make it.
  6. Accept the unexpected will happen and trust that you will be able to deal with it when it does. You’ve reached senior leadership having made a lot of good decisions previously.

 

MY PREDICTIONS FOR THE FUTURE

  1. Recovery planning is critically important – we are predicting now there will be a significant wave of referrals as lockdown is lifted. So the children’s ‘curve’ will commence when schools go back and referrals increase, it will last for 18 – 24 months.
  2. Some practice will improve forever
  3. People will value physical face to face contact more than ever
  4. The inspection regime will change
  5. The world is going to change its traditional concept of value in all its forms – political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental