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Children’s services improving despite systemic challenges, report says

Children’s services are continuing to deliver improvements and sustain strong performance, despite significant national challenges, a new report commissioned by the Local Government Association reveals.

17/10/23

Children’s services improving despite systemic challenges, report says

The report found that local partnerships are doing “inspiring work” which is “testament to how transformation can be achieved at a local level with the right enabling factors in place”.

However, the report, ‘A maturing approach to children’s services improvement: updating the key enablers of progress’, suggests what children’s services can achieve is “transcended” by bigger and wider systemic challenges.

These include a policy not always being joined up at a national level, structural challenges in recruiting and retaining workforce, lack of placements for children with the most complex needs, and the need for greater investment in services.

Councils have been rising to these challenges through a “culture change” in workforce and closer partnership working. The voice and lived experiences of children is also at the heart of the improvement effort.

As well as helping drive improvement at a local level, it is suggested these could be a “useful yardstick” for national policy too.

The report says the seven key enablers underpinning children’s services improvement have “stood the test of time” since the research was previously carried out in 2016.

These enablers, which are essential to improving children’s services and sustaining strong performance, include having a strategic approach, leadership and governance, engaging and supporting the workforce, engaging partners, building the supporting apparatus, fostering innovation, and judicious use of resources.

The report says these are still relevant today, providing a solid and practical framework for improvement.

It also reveals the “undeniable impact” of COVID-19, which has brought new children and families to the attention of children’s services who may not have previously needed help, and intensified calls on mental health services for children and adults, along with far-reaching changes in how the children’s workforce operates.

In addition, it finds the increasing complexity of the needs of young people, particularly adolescents, has been accelerated by the pandemic.

Cllr Louise Gittins, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said it was “positive” to see councils continuing to deliver improvements in children’s services, calling it a “testament to their tireless efforts to ensure children and young people get the support they need.”

“However this report is a reminder of the much wider, systemic challenges faced by councils, including escalating funding concerns.

“While councils have responded well to these challenges, what is clear is that we need to see a national response that provides the investment and reform that children’s services desperately need.

“The Autumn Statement is an opportunity for the Government to provide significant additional funding for all councils that can be wisely invested in stabilising the current system to ensure strong foundations on which to build future reform.”

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