What is a director of children’s services?

The director of children’s services (DCS) acts as a single, clear professional point of accountability for the design and delivery of children’s services in their local authority (LA) area.  The DCS is a system leader who facilitates and/or leads strategic partnerships, alongside their elected lead member for children's services, to champion children and young people’s rights, interests and outcomes, particularly the most vulnerable e.g. children in care. 

Effective public services can only be delivered in partnership across all agencies.  The role was created via the Children Act 2004 and for nearly two decades the DCS has sought to secure the very best outcomes for all children and young people by challenging their own organisation, and staff, to do more as well as working with and  influencing a range of partners and stakeholders, including senior colleagues in policing and health services plus schools, to do the same when the services in question sit beyond the LAs remit or control.

The democratic legitimacy of the LA plus its wide reach across almost all aspects of local public services, from education, social care and public health to leisure, housing and economic regeneration, means the LA is well placed to lead local partnerships.  Additionally, LAs have over 200 statutory responsibilities for children and young people.

Statutory Guidance on the Roles and Responsibilities of the Director of Children’s Services and Lead Member for Children’s Services

This statutory guidance explains the process for the appointment of the DCS and the designation of the lead member for children’s services (LMCS).

It covers the legislative basis for both appointments, sets out the roles and responsibilities of the post holders as well as government expectations about the role of LAs in education and children and young people’s services.

This guidance replaces the previous versions, issued in 2005 and 2009.

Children’s Services Statutory Duties

In 2011, a piece of work was undertaken by government which produced lists of statutory duties as they apply to councils in England. Of those duties, around 200 were in respect of children’s services.

In 2018, ADCS carried out an exercise to update the list of duties, which suggested an increase to almost 300 statutory duties in relation to children’s services.

The list we compiled is not necessarily exhaustive and we would be grateful for any feedback from colleagues on the duties listed to assist us:

  • Remove any duties no longer in statute
  • Remove any duties which have been over-ridden by more recent legislation
  • Add any duties which we have not yet identified.


Please contact the ADCS team at info@adcs.org.uk with your comments.

We hope that this list will be a valuable resource to our members as they deal with diminishing budgets and a range of reviews of the wider services they provide.