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Reflections on the ADEPT Autumn Conference

28 November 2019

Since returning home from last week’s ADEPT Autumn Conference in Bath, I’ve been reflecting on some of the key themes, not just from our speakers and panel discussions, but in conversations with members and delegates throughout the two days.

We are all so incredibly busy, balancing the demands of service delivery with long term planning, that taking a couple of days away can feel like a big ask. However, taking the time to think, listen, reflect and learn makes such a big difference, and I know following this many of us go back to our organisations with new ideas and connections.

This year’s theme, ‘Well-connected places in a changing world’ was shaped by our refreshed Strategic Plan 2020 - 2023 and focussed on ADEPT’s top three priorities:  funding, climate change, and infrastructure & communities. Climate change cuts across most of what we do in ADEPT and unsurprisingly it was the predominant issue throughout the conference. We heard that radical thinking is required if our future infrastructure is going to be net zero carbon, resilient and truly digital. As a sector, we were also challenged to think about how we can improve our communications, so that our communities can genuinely understand the value of what we do. The Highways Sector Deal stood out as a massive opportunity for me, but to succeed we must be clear on those wider issues that have to be considered at a national level, such as skills and inclusion.

The conference at Bath was an opportunity to showcase some of the exciting new programmes that ADEPT has developed over the past two years. Sharing, learning and finding products that can be scaled up is the focus of our £22.9m Live Labs programme.  It was great to hear about each Lab’s plans and some of the truly innovative thinking that has materialised at this early stage in their development. We also heard from the inspirational first cohort of the Future Place Leadership programme and its impact on their personal and professional development. It’s not too late to sign-up to the next programme, find out more here.

Personally, I was really pleased to hear the message about long-term funding for local authorities being repeated throughout the conference. In my opening speech, I shared the work I have been doing jointly with the Presidents of the Associations for Children’s Services, Adult Social Services, Public Health and the Local Government Association on future funding. Between us, we have agreed that our four associations will come together to set out the fundamental need to properly fund local authorities. This clear message will complement each organisation’s specific messaging and will be used when talking to partners and government, and within our own associations.

We are now at a point where increasing pressures in children’s and adult’s social care need to be properly funded. However, this must not be at the expense of other key preventative local government services that help create prosperous, independent and resilient communities. It is those preventative well-being and place-based economic growth, infrastructure and environmental services that will prevent demand growing exponentially in our care services in the short, medium and long-term. Local Authorities can, and do, join these services up at a local level to deliver improved outcomes for communities, but we need the right, long-term resources to continue doing this.

Finally, I believe that ADEPT should create networks of professionals who can support and inspire each other, collate and share best practice, and push our sector to continuously improve. From the feedback I received, it felt like this was happening across the two days and that each year, our Autumn Conference gets better and better.

I’d like to thank everyone that came to Bath and contributed to making this our most successful conference yet; it wouldn’t have happened without the generous support of our sponsors. The content was both inspiring and informative and that is thanks to the amazing line-up of speakers, facilitators and workshops. But for me, a successful event always requires a highly engaged audience and that was certainly the case last week, the energy in the room throughout the conference was fantastic.

For those that attended, please take the time to complete the post-conference survey, your feedback is essential in shaping future events. For those that didn’t attend make sure you get booked on for 2020!!