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Change in leadership at children’s services at lowest level for 10 years

The number of local authorities experiencing a change in Director of Children’s Services over the last year has fallen dramatically.

Of the 151 upper tier local authorities in England, just 39 experienced a change in their children’s services leader meaning that 77% of authorities did not experience a change in DCS between April 2020 and March 2021.

“The total of 39 changes is a significant decrease compared to the previous periods (57 changes in total in 2019/20 and 51 the year before that). The average number of total changes in DCS post-holder per year is currently 47 and 39 is the fewest number of changes since 2011/12,” said the analysis by The Association of Directors of Children’s Services.

“The 39 changes have taken place across 34 local authorities. Five local authorities had each experienced two DCS changes, largely due to short-term interim appointments being made prior to a permanent appointment,” the report added.

The analysis revealed that between April 2020 and March 2021 there were:

- 12 new permanent DCS appointments – the fewest number of such appointments since ADCS was formed in 2007; the average annual number of new appointments per annum is 21.

- Of the 12 new permanent appointments, nine were from assistant director/second tier level from the same local authority and three were from assistant director/second tier level from another local authority

- 17 interim appointments - eight of which have been filled by assistant directors from within the same local authority, five have been filled by former DCSs, one has been filled by Chief Executive holding the statutory DCS role, two have been filled by Director of Adult Social Services holding statutory DCS role pending substantive appointment and there was one vacancy.

- Eight DCSs have moved post from one local authority to another during 2020/21

- Two former DCSs returned to the statutory DCS role.

The report also showed that the average duration of a DCS in post in the same local authority (based on all interim and permanent appointments from 2007 to 31 March 2020) is 30 months – across all permanent appointments it is 39 months and for all interim appointments it is seven months.

Fifty eight or 38% of the current post holders have been DCS in more than one authority in either permanent, interim or multi-local authority arrangements, showing that experience is valued and expertise is not being lost from the sector.

There were 26 ‘twin hat’ directors at March 2021, holding the statutory responsibility for children and adult services and this is the lowest number since 2010.

There were 91 local authorities with female directors and 59 with male directors (there is one vacancy for a DCS role). Of the 91 authorities with female directors, 13 are ‘twin hatters’. Of the 59 authorities with a male director, 13 are ‘twin hatters’. Of the 12 interim directors currently in post, eight are female and four are male.

Of those who responded to the question about ethnicity, 80% identify as white British, 5% as white Irish, 8% as ‘other’ white, 1% as other; 1% as black African, 1% as black Caribbean, 3% as white and Asian. One DCS preferred not to state their ethnicity.

The report showed that there are a number of Alternative Delivery Models (ADMs) currently providing aspects of children’s services on behalf of local authorities:

• Achieving for Children provides children’s services on behalf of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames

• Achieving for Children also provides some services on behalf of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead

• Together for Children provides children’s services on behalf of Sunderland City Council

• Brighter Futures for Children provides children’s services on behalf of Reading Council

• Worcestershire Children First provides children’s services on behalf of Worcestershire County Council.

Children First Northamptonshire provided children’s services on behalf of Northamptonshire County Council until 31 March 20201. It will cease to do so for the two new unitary authorities with effect from April 2021.

At 31 March 2021, Trust arrangements are in place in Birmingham, Doncaster, Northamptonshire, Sandwell and Slough. Doncaster Children’s Services Trust became an arms-length management organisation (ALMO) from April 2019.

ADCS DCS Update at 31 March 2021

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