Solace Blog

It Takes a Village

 by Vivienne Tong, Katie Johnston & Jonathan House

Government and Healthcare Consulting - PwC

It takes a village to raise a child.  But continued short-termism – that means we are stuck in reactive spending cycles and still working in siloes – isn’t creating the right ‘village’ of support to give children the best chances.  PwC are working in collaboration with Solace to bring together and share best practice for effective cross-system or place-based working: publishing a series of blog posts and article and a report at the October Solace Summit.

 

 More children are being taken into care whilst finances and resources continue to be squeezed.There are over 10,000 more children in need (from 376,000 in 2007 to 389,000 in 2016) and 21.7% more looked after children (from 60,000 to 73,000 in 2017) across England than a decade ago[1].  Yet we know that children in care are much more likely to experience poor life outcomes: they are 4 times more likely than their peers to experience mental health difficulties[2]; less likely to go on to education, employment or training[3]; and 20 times more likely to be criminalised than their counterparts[4].  Despite the growth in numbers, spend on safeguarding and looked after children has remained static since 2009-10, and spend on early intervention and prevention has been cut by circa 60% in the same period.

Organisations need to work together to do better for our children.This means thinking more broadly about how public service providers, local communities and businesses can work together as a single system.  Too many organisations are still operating without considering their cause and effect on the wider system.  Growing demand for children’s social care, household deprivation, insufficient low level support for mental health issues, joblessness, housing challenges and poor health outcomes are seen as separate issues, rather than connected.  Thresholds are still driving behaviour, allowing and encouraging situations to worsen before there is help available or accessible.  In many places, the traditional fabric of community resilience has weakened, making it harder for families to find or rely on community support. 

The way public services are delivered has to fundamentally change.Public service providers need to recognise and harness more informal support, connect more closely with local communities and businesses, and work better together across the public sector to create ‘the village’ for children to thrive in.  A more joined up approach will help to identify (earlier on) and address the root causes of demand, and keep children on track and hopefully out of ‘the system’.  Digital platforms and capability, as well intelligent use of data and analytics have a critical role to play in this – by supporting smarter targeting of resources and support.

A ‘village’ approach needs an environment that encourages people to work collaboratively.  This goes from visible leadership at the top, through to supportive middle managers, passionate frontline workers, local businesses, and the vital role of individuals at grassroots level in the community. 

How can we support the ‘village’? In collaboration with Solace, we will be exploring some of the themes outlined here over the next few months, bringing together and sharing examples of innovative best practice from across the country.  The village makeup is myriad and complex – encompassing leadership, systems and infrastructure, human behaviours and psychology, specific initiatives and interventions; the list goes on. 

We want to hear from you about what works and how others can learn from you.  What’s made the difference in how you work with your local partners to impact children’s outcomes?  Not just in social care and schools, but also housing, urban and green spaces, jobs, healthcare, volunteering and other areas.  PwC are excited to be working with Solace over the summer on this crucial area, which as a firm we feel extremely passionate about.  We will collate and share the collective experience of what works, leading up to a report to be presented at the October (2018) Solace Summit.

Please contact vanessa.lucas@solace.org.uk to offer thoughts, best practice or case studies on creating resilient communities that support children and families to thrive.



[1] Institute for Fiscal Studies (2018) Public Spending on Children in England: 2000 to 2020 (Elaine Kelly, Tom Lee, Luke Sibieta and Tom Waters)

[2] The Office of National Statistics conducted research on the mental health of young people, aged 5-17, looked after by local authorities (Meltzer, H. et al, 2003, Meltzer, H et al, 2004a and Meltzer et al, 2004b).

[3] Department for Education (DfE) (2017) Children looked after in England (including adoption) year ending 31 March 2017

[4] The Howard League, 2016 Criminal Care. HLPR: London