It takes a village: How can councils and their partners create environments where children thrive?

October 19, 2018

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by Jonathan House Devolved and Local Government Leader

Email +44 (0)7791 114 593

Ensuring that children are well looked after and have the support they need to thrive is one of the most important jobs that local government does. But it’s a job that cannot be done by councils alone. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, and a wide range of partners have a role to play in creating environments where children can flourish.

With children’s services under growing pressure, we collaborated with Solace to examine the drivers of demand in children’s services and collect examples of best practice in creating a ‘village’ that enabled children to thrive. While council’s financial challenges are part of the equation, the case studies in our 'It takes a village' report show that simply spending more is not the whole answer.  High levels of funding do not necessarily correlate to excellent children’s services. Service design, data analytics, motivated, empowered and highly skilled professional staff and partnership working are all key.

Each of the places we looked at are taking a different approach, however, there are seven key themes that emerged in terms of successful collaborative working and effective use of resources:

  1. Leadership in partnership working requires different skills, with influencing and negotiating key to facilitating cross-organisational working.
  2. Community engagement and involvement is critical in ensuring success, but often hard to achieve in more disadvantaged communities.
  3. Developing a shared approach to data collection, analysis and interpretation forms a strong basis for making good use of data and evidence to inform strategy and decision-making.
  4. Staff training in partnership and team working improves collaboration and reduces the impact of professional boundaries.
  5. While there were concerns about the longer-term sustainability of funding, it is possible to come to broad and indicative conclusions about the value for money of place-based interventions.
  6. Reducing entrenched disadvantage takes time. While places should be ambitious, it is important to be realistic and manage expectations of what can be achieved.  
  7. Many children’s services departments are experiencing overstretched staff capacity. This emphasises the need for better collaborative working to make the best use of the scarce resources available at a place level.

Focusing on the country’s most vulnerable children provides a powerful lens through which to examine the future of public spending and public services. Leadership, collaborative working, making good use of data and evidence to tackle the drivers of demand and engaging with communities and families are all essential.  With a Spending Review approaching, government has the opportunity to support a place-based approach, enabling councils and their partners to join up, invest for the long term and create environments in which all children can achieve their full potential.

by Jonathan House Devolved and Local Government Leader

Email +44 (0)7791 114 593