This is a case of telling you what to do, and no-showing.
The National Commissioning and Contracting Training Conference the major yearly meeting of all those involved with the placements and services for children was left with a range of feelings after Josh MacAllilister, who had been leading the DfE Care Review, pulled out of a presentation just hours before announcing his closing of the review. At that point it looked as if he had ceased any continuance with it.
People went through a range of feelings starting with disappointment, giving way to growing disenchantment, and finally feeling disrespected.
The Care Review was (how new to write about it in the past tense) was characterised by carefully managed consultations and media messages. There was no engagement with any critique, or explanation of the evidence for the thinking just descriptive reporting.
The conference was a first opportunity for many to make a connection with the man leading it, he is still unknown to many in social care. It was an opportunity to make connections between his recommendations, the Care review remains a series of propositions in search of a strategy. It was an opportunity to dispel scepticism of the recommendations that many were speaking of in conversation.
The absence was all the more acute as Ofsted and the Competitions and Markets Authority kept their commitment and spoke on their recent reports and research engaging in dialogue with attenders. The NCCTC organising group had planned MacAllister’s presentation as one of the transitions of the review from research and report to implementation stages.
Speaking at NCCTC would have been the perfect opportunity to call a formal close to the Care Review by meeting with those directly doing the things he identifies for change, thanking them, and wishing them well. People wanted to talk, to explore, to understand, to challenge, to develop.
No reason was given. Across the conference it was received as a poor example of corporate parenting, a negative example of making and breaking relationships. The conference was an opportunity to role model the relationships that are emphasised in the report.
He missed an exceptional conference where needs-led ideas were extensively shared, this was a coherence of solutions. The content packed conference culminated in a standing ovation for one of the most powerful presentations ever at the conference given by care-experienced Rebekah Pierre sharing the impact of an unregulated ‘hostel’. It was a life changing, policy changing presentation.
People attending felt DfE, who used to attend throughout, had missed an opportunity to collect, and connect with, the enormous range of evidence of positive practice that was shared. There always used to be a DfE presence. The sector used to feel connected. It is important people doing the job are connected to policy makers. It is important policy makers know what people are thinking and feeling.
To rub salt into the wounds of the no show Will Quince announced on the Adoption and Fostering Podcast the day after the NCCTC that MacAllister will be on the new National Implementation Board.