Giving Vulnerable Children a Voice

With children's services facing budget cuts in an era of soaring demand, how can vulnerable young people be best supported? And is the sector in need of systemic change?.  These thought-provoking questions are posed this week following a recent Guardian roundtable discussion sponsored by the children's charity Barnardo's.

The Guardian article resulting from the discussion, written by Kate Murray, highlights that - in the face of the rising demand, falling spending, failing services and a series of child protection scandals - many child protection practitioners are warning of a crisis in children's services.

One of the fundamental changes that was identified in the article was a need for a more child-centred approach.  As Natasha Finlayson, chief executive of The Who Cares? Trust, commented, For decades people were saying they were abused and nothing was done.  A proper systemic rethink needs to start a debate about what we think about children and their status in society.

Key points from the discussion included:

  • A systemic rethink of children's services: key options for the future
  • Ensuring that the voices of children and young people are heard in order to plan services that really work for them"
  • Longer-term funding arrangements and contracts, with more flexibility over how money is spent as long as the right outcomes are achieved"
  • Better information sharing and better use of data
  • A new approach to joint working from local authorities and the voluntary sector through longer-term strategic partnerships
  • Greater opportunities for staff to influence services and raise concerns"
  • More openness to new ways of structuring services

At the table were:

  • David Brindle, (Chair) Public Services Editor, The Guardian
  • Maggie Atkinson, Children's Commissioner for England
  • Kathy Evans, Chief Executive, Children England
  • Dan Corry, Chief Executive, NPC
  • Nick Forbes, Leader, Newcastle city council; vice-chair, LGA children and young people board
  • Natasha Finlayson, Chief Executive, The Who Cares? Trust
  • Javed Khan, Chief Executive, Barnardo's
  • Helen Kersley, Head of Valuing What Matters, New Economics Foundation
  • Alan Wood, President, Association of Directors of Children's Services
  • Helga Pile, National Officer for Social Workers, Unison
  • David Reeson, Director, Infrastructure, Government and Healthcare Performance and Tech, KPMG

The full Guardian article, which is highly recommended, can be found here.