Reflections from NCAS Conference 2014

Technology, domestic abuse and social work standards were this year's conference top takeaways for Sherry Malik

The National Children and Adult Services Conference (NCAS) in Manchester was lively as ever this week. The conference brings together colleagues from across social care services, children protection and health sectors.

Attending NCAS for the first time as NSPCC's director of children's services, it was a fantastic opportunity to spread the word about some of the work we're doing to build an evidence base about child protection – how best to prevent abuse and protect children from harm.

Sherry Malik at NCAS Conference 2014

The changing face of social services

Social services have seen many changes since I went to my first NCAS conference in 1997. Changes I've been reflecting on include:

  • community work - children and adult services are once again being brought together by many local authorities, which provides a great platform to work with whole communities
  • child sexual exploitation has existed for many years but I'm pleased that there is a national focus on this problem. Inquiries show that young people were treated as 'prostitutes' responsible for their own actions, rather than focussing on the adult criminals exploiting them. I hope the recent inquiries will ensure that we focus on safeguarding the childhood of children.
  • integrated care is absolutely the way forward but I still see that its emphasis is on adult services and health – there's work to do to ensure we don't lose the focus on children's commissioning within Health and Well Being Boards.

From the conference itself, I've got to say, I miss the Thursday night dinners! Although great to see social care curry getting people together on Wednesday, and I'm sorry I missed this year's Guardian Jobs charity pub quiz.

Discussing, debating and learning new things

One thing that never changes is the opportunity to discuss, debate and learn something new – and these are 3 key things I've taken away this year:

The power of technology

We are missing a trick if we don't use technology as a force for good in social care. Digital solutions can enable better sharing of information between agencies and with our service users. We must question how we're interacting with children, who live in the digital world. Social workers need to embrace this way of communicating and working with children. It was great to see Research in Practice pick this up as a theme at their recent conference.

As an avid tweeter, I have been live tweeting from conference sessions but also appreciated my fellow tweeters' experience of sessions I couldn't attend. It felt like I've had a buy-one-get-one-free deal!

3 planets of domestic abuse

Domestic abuse services exists in a 3 planet system – services for children, services for victims, and services for perpetrators. But we know that recovery of children is linked to the attachment to the non-abusing parent, so how can we bring these worlds together?

In our innovation session on Thursday we presented on the need to support and strengthen the relationship between children exposed to domestic abuse and their non-abusing parent and started a debate on gaps in the current landscape. It's something we'll continue to explore with the development of our new service on domestic abuse.

Single set of standards

The College of Social Work is doing much to professionalise social work, as are the 2 chief social workers. However, it's important that there is a clear single set of standards which social workers instantly recognise as relevant. Currently there are too many different bodies who are promoting slightly different wordings and emphasis which is confusing for the frontline. We need a single set of standards for the profession. With this, alongside initiatives like the upcoming Social Worker of the Year Awards, which we're really proud to support this year, we can make great strides in building the reputation of social work.