ENGLAND – Short term planning is damaging child protection services, says Action for Children

Report calls for a ten year national plan for early intervention

The early intervention by local authorities to ameliorate acute family problems, such as neglect or family breakdown, with effective support is being compromised by short term planning, according to a new report published by the charity, Action for Children

The report – Early intervention: where now for local authorities? – says that whilst there is emerging a broad consensus as to the benefits of early intervention, there is a damaging tension between the need for long term planning and short term exigencies.

The report notes:

“It is difficult to work towards long-term visions while meeting immediate need. While some local authorities set an overall vision for the long term, strategic plans for children’s services typically cover 3-5 year periods, and delivery contracts have to be managed on a much shorter-term basis.

“There is tension between long-term outcomes and the day-to-day operating context. The stability of services overall, and the potential to deliver long-term benefits, are limited by short-term funding cycles and national initiatives that feel hard to ‘join-up’ at service level.”

The findings also indicated a number of factors that affect local ability to develop and sustain an early intervention approach as a way of delivering long-term outcomes, such as:

·       The need for stability, as well as long-term planning and funding, at the national policy level. 

·       Engagement of the wider workforce, in particular the voluntary and community sector. 

·       The level of engagement of elected members in this work. 

·       Having both the organisational culture and capacity to commission skilfully and manage the risk of working in different ways. 

·       Building the professional skill and confidence to work across service boundaries, in a culture of intervention rather than onward referral.

Action for Children calls for more stability derived from strong leadership, having a locally appropriate response, investing in the most effective programmes, and longer-term financial settlements.

The report concludes:

“A ten year national vision and spending plan would give Local Authorities the confidence they need to reconfigure their services to focus on early intervention. Importantly, they would then be free to work more effectively with their local partners, to share the initial financial burden but also reap the benefits that early intervention brings.”

The report can be read here.

 

SOURCE: Family Law Week

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