In November, lead members for children’s services from across the country will meet in Bournemouth at the National Children and Adult Services Conference (NCASC) to talk about how we can give children the best possible future.
It is fitting that in this same month we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Children Act 1989 and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) – two milestones that shaped children’s services today.
We often think of children’s services as existing to keep children safe – and that is vital. But simply ‘keeping children safe’ fails to encompass their breadth and ambition.
The Children Act and the UNCRC put children at the centre of policy-making, ensuring their voices were heard, their safety protected and their freedoms safeguarded. They called on councils and governments to make sure children had what they needed to grow into happy, healthy and successful adults.
Many children can get this support from their families and communities, especially with help from invaluable universal services such as health visitors and youth services.
But one in 10 children needs some extra help on top of this, and that’s where children’s social care steps in. It can be something simple, like a parenting course or support with transitions. Or more intensive support might be needed to keep everyone in the family safe and well, whether that’s support around domestic violence or providing respite care for children with complex disabilities.
For a minority of children, giving them the best chance will mean taking them into care. In those cases, finding children stable, loving homes with support to overcome any earlier trauma is vital, and we know that where this works best, children go on to thrive.
“The children who need help from social care are in every school and community
These are not ‘other people’s children’. No family is immune to life’s challenges, and every family should feel safe in the knowledge that, if they need it, help is there to get things back on track.
The children who need help from social care are in every school and community. Councils have been trusted with making sure these children have the same chances as every other child, and that is a responsibility they take very seriously.
But we know that despite the enormous efforts of the entire children’s workforce – from early help practitioners and social workers to foster carers – things could be better. That’s why, in 2017, the LGA published Bright Futures, our seven-point plan for coordinated action across the public, community and voluntary sectors to drive the improvement necessary to consistently offer the brightest future for children and families.
Since then, we’ve seen more government funding for innovation and improvement, better Ofsted ratings, and children’s social care rising up the political agenda.
But the job is far from finished. At NCASC, we’ll be publishing an updated Bright Futures statement outlining what actions we’ll be taking over the coming year. We’ll be redoubling our efforts to
ensure councils get the funding they need to provide the services children and families deserve; to be certain children are at the heart of local and national agendas; and to make sure the right help is available at the right time – before situations become critical.
The Children Act 1989 and the UNCRC were landmarks, and we owe it to every child and young person to fulfil their visions. By coming together across sectors, we can make that happen.