Government must invest in children’s & youth services

Leading children’s charities and local councils have called on the Government to urgently close the funding gap facing children and young people’s services as new research reveals a sharp rise in families reaching “crisis point”.

An open letter signed by five major organisations warns that children’s social care is being pushed to breaking point, with a £2bn funding gap expected to open by 2020. It urges ministers to “step up” and use the Autumn Budget to invest in vital services in order to save youngsters from serious harm.

The signatories, which include Barnardo’s, Action for Children and the Local Government Association (LGA), state that between them they have “spent years warning successive governments that a failure to invest in these vital services will have long term consequences” for the UK’s children and families.

The letter, comes as a report by three leading children’s charities reveals “crippling” central government cuts have left councils with no option but to close services designed to detect early signs of child neglect and abuse – forcing them to direct to a “crisis” fire-fighting model.

Demand for crisis support for children has risen sharply as council spending on services that are designed to spot signs of neglect and abuse early has fallen by 40 per cent between 2010/11 and 2015/16, the report shows. Central government funding for children and young people’s services has seen a real terms decrease of £2.4bn in that period, while local authority allocations for these services has fallen by £1.6bn.

At the same time, there has been a 108 per cent increase in child protection investigations, as demand for council help soars.

The research, from The Children’s Society, Action for Children and the National Children’s Bureau, also reveals stark geographical discrepancies, with the most deprived councils in England having cut spending on children’s services by almost a quarter (23 per cent) – six times as much as the least deprived councils.

The open letter to ministers reads:

“Children’s social care is being pushed to breaking point, with an unprecedented surge in demand leaving services across the public, voluntary and community sector struggling to cope.

“We believe that all children deserve the chance of a bright future. That’s why we are uniting today to urge the Government to use the Autumn Budget to close the funding gap facing children’s services, which will reach at least £2bn by 2020.”

It states that the number of children needing child protection plans has nearly doubled over the past decade, and last year saw the largest annual increase in children in care since 2013. The organisations also highlight that local authorities overspent on children’s services by £365m in 2014/15 just to keep children safe, and a huge £605m the following year.

The letter adds:

“Our children and young people deserve better than the gradual decline of services – particularly those services that help children early – that have been shown to make a real difference to their lives”

“Councils and the voluntary sector are committed to getting the best for every child. Now we need the same commitment from our government, starting with urgent action through the Budget to give local services the resources they need to help children and families thrive.”

The number of young people subject to child protection enquires increased by 140 per cent – to 170,000 – in the past decade, according to research by the LGA earlier this year.

A separate study more recently revealed that benefit cuts and increased levels of poverty across the UK were the primary cause for this “unprecedented surge” in demand for children’s services, while a lack of resources to provide universal services like children’s centres and youth clubs also played a significant part.

 

 

Children’s & youth work links

Links from the world of children’s and youth ministry:

The Good Childhood Report 2016

good-childhood-report-2016

Over the last decade the Children’s Society have asked over 60,000 children how they think their lives are going.  The Good Childhood Report 2016 is their fifth in-depth study into children’s well-being, produced in partnership with the University of York.

good-childhood-report-2016-coverThe media picked up on some of its headline findings:

  • 1 in 3 girls are unhappy with their appearance
  • Girls are less happy than they used to be
  • Children’s direct experiences of where they live affect their well-being more than factors further removed from them

It lists three main policy recommendations:

  1. The Government should introduce a legally binding entitlement for children and young people to be able to access mental health and well-being support in educational settings in England and Wales. This must include sufficient funding.
  2. The Government must commit to understanding and acting on children’s well-being. At the moment there is no firm commitment from the Government that children’s well-being will continue to be measured. With a new Government in place, now is the time to reaffirm the commitment to monitoring well-being – and particularly children’s well-being – across the UK.
  3. Local authorities across the UK should develop a process to make sure that children have a voice in decision-making about their local areas, including:
  • Developing a process to allow children and young people to debate the issues affecting their lives and to assist in decision-making over setting priorities for the year ahead.
  • Bringing people together at a neighbourhood level to improve children’s access to, and their perception of safety in, their local environment – including local parks and open spaces.
  • Producing an annual children and young people’s local profile that brings together the range of data that is available on children’s lives in the area.

You can read the summary report here or have a look at the full report.

And if you want to tackle some of the issues raised by the report such as self-esteem, relationships and well-being, get hold of the Seriously Awkward resource which has 6 creative sessions to use with young people.

Faith leaders call for revised refugee policy

 

rowan-williams

More than 200 leaders of faith communities have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, Theresa May calling for urgent changes to the government’s refugee policy, particularly to allow families to be reunited.

The signatories are headed by Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, who will give a speech on Monday in front of an audience of faith leaders and refugees to reiterate the letter’s demands.

Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, the former lord justice of appeal, has added her name to the letter, which is also signed by leaders and representatives of the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist communities.

The interfaith letter follows similar initiatives by 350 judges and lawyers, who wrote to the then prime minister, David Cameron, last October; 120 senior economists in January; and 27 humanitarian and refugee organisations, also in January.

Government report revealing full impact of cuts to children’s centres

A damning report which revealed the full extent of the harm done by funding cuts to children’s centres was among more than 400 statements, documents and reports quietly released by the Government just before Christmas.

A six-year study by Oxford University researchers ‘The impact of children’s centres: studying the effects of children’s centres in promoting better outcomes for young children and their families‘ highlighted how children’s centres – often known as Sure Start – were making a difference in some of the poorest areas of the country, but have suffered acutely from cuts or restructuring.

The final report was agreed in August, but the Department for Education (DfE), which commissioned it, quietly slipped it out on 17 December, along with hundreds of other statements, documents and reports.

The study is the most detailed ever conducted into the impact of children’s centres on the families who use them. The researchers examined 117 children’s centres in 2011 and 2013 – many of which may have been hit by further cuts since – and analysed interviews with more than 2,600 parents who used them, in order to calculate the impact the centres were having on families using different types of service.

Apply to be on the 2014 UK Youth Select Committee

Youth Select Committee

Here’s a massive opportunity for a young person to help influence and shape the future:

Do you want to be part of a Youth Select Committee that will change things for young people? Are you aged 11 to 18, resident in the UK and able to volunteer your time on the dates as stated in the application?  Do you have an interest in youth representation, and democracy? Then apply to be on the Youth Select Committee 2014.

The topic for this year’s Youth Select Committee – which mirrors Parliamentary Select Committees –  will  be Votes at 16, which has been chosen by the majority of the UKs youth representatives in the UK Youth Parliament and the British Youth Council.

You will join a panel of eleven young people who will take and hear evidence before writing a report with recommendations to the Government. It will meet in one of the Committee rooms in the House of Commons in June and July 2014. You will need to be able to commit to the dates outlined in the application form and be willing to volunteer about 2 hours a week to take part until September 2014.  All expenses are covered and you will get a certificate of participation, insight into Parliament and your experience will be accredited learning through the BYC Youth Voice Award.

Your application form needs to be returned by the 31st January 2014 and the successful candidates will by informed by 7th February.  Please be aware that you may be called for a telephone interview that week.

For an informal discussion and further details, please contact Paul Boskett MBE, Youth Democracy Manager at the British Youth Council, on email at paul.boskett@byc.org.ukor by phone on 07507 639788.

Young people to be funded to remain in foster care until age 21 if they wish

Education minister Edward Timpson

Children and young people brought up by foster carers in England will be allowed to remain with families until they are 21 if they choose to under a new legal duty for councils – this is brilliant news – it was always crazy to force young people to live on their own at 18 by withdrawing their funding:

Children and young people brought up by foster carers in England will be allowed to remain with families until they are 21 if they choose to under a new legal duty for councils, ministers will announce on Wednesday.

Charities have long argued for a change in the law, which currently forces many young people to live on their own at 18. The government has set aside £40m for local authorities over the next three years to put support arrangements in place.

The decision marks a U-turn for ministers, who had previously resisted calls to expand Labour’s pilot Staying Put programme – a scheme that gives young people the option to stay with foster families until they are 21.

The Labour scheme had been piloted in 11 English local authorities since 2008 and evaluations showed that young people who stayed on with foster carers were twice as likely to be in full time education at 19 as those who did not.

Education minister Edward Timpson, whose own mother fostered 90 children, said: “I know from the many foster children I grew up with how crucial it is for them to be given sufficient time to prepare for life after care.  A growing number of local authorities already offer young people the choice to stay, but with little financial support it can be challenging for their foster families. This is a further reform to our much wider package of support for care leavers, including much greater financial support for young people leaving care at 18.”

The government will now put forward an amendment at the third reading of the children and families bill in January.

Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, which campaigned on the issue, said: “This change in the law will make a massive difference to the lives of this and future generations of care leavers in England. This issue has, however, not been resolved for young people in Wales and Scotland. We will continue to campaign for this change in the law to be replicated”.

Currently, local authorities in England fund the cost of children in foster care until they reach 18. At that point, support varies across the country. In many areas, teenagers are forced to live by themselves at an age when others would remain at home. Statistics from the Department for Education revealed only 10 more young people stayed with their foster carers after the age of 18 in 2012-13 than in 2011-12.

Natasha Finlayson, chief executive of the Who Cares? Trust, which supports children in care, said: “This represents the most significant reform to the support children in care are given in a generation.  Time and again we hear from young people who are extremely anxious about having to leave their carers when they turn 18 and effectively no longer having somewhere they can call home, especially when the average age for young people who aren’t in care to finally leave home is (at least) 24.”

SEN Conference – The Local Offer

The second session of the Hampshire County Council SEN Conference was entitled “The Local Offer” and led by Tesni Mason, Parent Partnership Officer.

HCC governor services

Check out www.hampshirelocaloffer.com for more information.

Andre spoke about the need for people to have clear information – not just contact details, but information on how to access services.  The Local Offer is not just for education, but education, health and care, for CYP with SEN and/or disability.

The LA has to publish that information, but also comments on the Local Offer – so it is very transparent system.  In addition they have to publish their response to the comments developing a clear link between commissioning and clients.

The Local Offer is a live set of information which will be reviewed and amended regularly.

Hampshire has worked with the other LA in the SE7 Pathfinder Authorities.  Parents want to compare information to be able to understand the Local Offer.

Regional Principles

  • Co-produced – working with CYP, Parents and Schools to create a sensible way of moving forward together.
  • Holistic – all information has to cover 0-25 – that is a big challenge as most info is 0-16 and 16+.
  • Accessible – partly about the language that is used – much is not new information but information that is hard to find and understand.
  • Factual – only want to know things that are actually there – they want to know aspirations but also what the current situation and service is.
  • Empowering – accessing those services ASAP – important not just for families but also for professionals.
  • Sustainable – get up-to-date, asking schools to help with this.
  • Transparent – much more information about how decisions are made, what eligibility is.
  • Widely available – start with easy access that require no further assessment then moving onto specialist support.

Schools, Social Care, Health, Parents, Adult Services – links to housing, employment etc.  Spent a lot of time developing the guidelines, now putting into practice, in an implementation stage.  Specific groups looking at specific issues – schools, parents, but no governors, services such as Ed Psych, Early Years.

Publishing the Local Offer

Developed a partnership with Parent Voice to deliver and develop the IT for the Local Offer, linked to the Parent Voice and Hampshire Gateway websites.  Hampshire Parent/Carer Network, NHS and others have developed the web site.

Aiming to publish the first version of the offer in January 2013.

Research on Parental Journeys

Research on parental journeys – to understand how parents find information – what works well, what is hard to find, and what the emotional impact of the information is.  Sent out a questionnaire, receiving 117 response, anonymous, and then selected 40 families (5 from each of the 8 Districts, with age 5-22 year old children, and mild, moderate and more complex needs).  Interviewed 31 families, and completing analysis, with report coming in the next few weeks.

Key findings – What Works Well

  • A single point of contact with someone they can talk things through with.
  • Having information prior to appointments – knowing who’s who and what to expect.
  • Effect signposting – often when not eligible they aren’t signposted to an appropriate resource.
  • Shared decision making and being listened to.
  • 80% of parents send they were left to their own devices, trying to find the information, professionals assumed knowledge.
  • Felt some information was hidden – especially around Statementing and Social Care assessment.
  • They felt they had to learn to be pushy – threaten legal action or exaggerate symptoms to be heard.  Conflict could be avoided if greater transparency.

In December develop a prototype of website, publishing in January, and by March a full version of the Local Offer with further info to follow.

What do you need to do?

Questions for schools have come from what parents said they want to know, and link to SEN Information Regulations which state what schools legally have to publish.  Piloted with a number of schools and realised that some questions led ot professional language and are producing guidance which will be finalised by the end of October, with briefings for schools from 11th November.

All schools will produce their own Local Offer including the roles of LA, Schools and Governors.  The LA will produce their guidance on the offer under School Action and School Action + until the Draft Code is published.  Gosport have looked at it as both individual schools and clusters – looking at who else you engage with to support children with SEN and Disability.

How do we do co-production?  Can be a scary idea, but quite simple, invite in a couple of parents to review the questions, some supportive and some who challenge you quite a bit.  That can be quite small and simple.  Then build on that by adding detail to the headings – some further broadening of parental survey.  Important that everyone has some say in that.

Discussion

The Local Offer is what is already done and in the SEN Policy – so surely we’re just creating another document from existing documents.  It is slightly more parent friendly but surely the policy should be written in a better way.  Sharing information of services would be beneficial but that seems like an LA role not local schools.

  • How much freedom in your final Local Offer?  It will need some prescriptive questions as there are some things which are important and we want some
  • When does it have to be done, and who do we submit it to?  Can start doing it now, have to do it by the end of the year.  It can take several drafts.  Working out the quality control, and when publish the guidance that will be included.  Will be circulated to Head Teachers.
  • How do you share across a consortium?  Gosport has devised a shared Local Offer which is then adapted by each individual school.
  • It seems an example of creating more work, and not streamlining a service?  The responsibility of each school is to produce a Local Offer in partnership with parents.
  • But if you’re a mile apart you would end up replicating the same document as the other school as the same services would be there.  Yes but we need to allow individual schools to share their views.
  • Surely one needs a standard document if it is to benefit parents give they’re not the same.  There will be a form, containing guidance, which will provide uniformity.

Fair and Square: From the Children’s Society

Children's Society - Fair & Square

Your campaigning works – the government’s own advisors have today recognised that 700,000 children from poor working families aren’t allowed free school meals and cannot afford to pay for them. They say these children are sometimes going hungry and things should change.

The Government has still not promised to change things, but it has promised to ‘investigate’. Now is the time for us to put pressure on the government to make them listen to their own advisors and ensure that ALL children in poverty receive Free School Meals.

Email your MP now to ask them to speak up.

http://action.childrenssociety.org.uk/fairandsquare

With changes to the benefits system coming in the autumn, the government has to make a decision soon. With the end of term approaching, parents will be starting to worry about how to pay for food when school starts again.

Now’s the time to speak up.

Best Wishes,

Gavin Thomson
Campaigns Team
The Children’s Society

Funny stories from around the world

Some more funny and random headlines from around the world:

Books I have read: Only Half Of Me: British and Muslim: The Conflict Within

Only Half of Me - Being a Muslim in Britain

I finished reading Only Half Of Me: British and Muslim: The Conflict Within by Rageh Omaar last night.  I found it a fascinating read as he describes both the personal tensions and cultural tensions he has seen over his life and the way in which society makes big assumptions against British Muslims.

Following 9/11 and then the 7/7 London bombing society has become much more suspicious and negative towards British Muslims.  Omaar shows how this goes beyond what should be acceptable.  Having grown up originally in Somalia and then moving to Britain for a private education, he struggled to develop into an adult who straddled both his parents Islamic faith and the Western society in which he was living.

The point that I found most interesting was the sub culture of wealthy upper middle class Muslims moving to the UK to provide their children with a top quality education, sometimes staying, sometimes moving back to their country of origin.  In Omaar’s case with Somalia falling into civil war his family decided to stay in the UK and it was only as a reporter for the BBC that he went back to visit his homeland.  Alongside his own story, Omaar details the responses of a number of people who fled from oppression in their native land.

The book challenges the reader to a better understanding of Muslims coming to live in Britain.  But it does leave a number of key questions unanswered – there are positive challenges for how white British people can respond better to British Muslims, whereas there seems little in response as to how a British Muslim should engage with British society.

I feel as if Omaar has written part 1, but could write more suggestions as to how society could function better as a whole.