Andy Dempsey, Director of Partnerships and Strategy, (Children and Young People), at Gloucestershire County Council and Dame Janet Trotter DBE CBE CVO, (Chair of Child Friendly Gloucestershire), gave a detailed update on the Child Friendly Gloucestershire (CFG) Initiative.
To visit the Child Friendly Gloucestershire website, please refer to the following link: www.childfriendlygloucestershire.com
The purpose of the presentation was to update members on the progress of the initiative, set up at the request of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) in 2018, in response to concerns about the wellbeing of the children and young people of Gloucestershire.
As reported at previous meetings, there is no longer a statutory duty for localities to have a Children and Young People’s Plan. There is, however, a continuing duty under Section 10 of the Children Act 2004 for the Director of Children’s Services and Lead Member for Children’s Services to co-ordinate the work of local partner agencies to secure the wellbeing of children and young people in their locality.
Since its commencement in 2018, the CFG partnership has enlisted the support of a wide range of voluntary, faith and commercial sectors to work alongside senior statutory agency representatives and a diverse group of young people as a countywide coalition arrangement, reporting direct to the Gloucestershire Health and Wellbeing Board (HWB).
Key functions include;
a) To provide oversight and scrutiny of the impact of the wide range of existing plans and strategies that contribute to the health and wellbeing of the children and young people of Gloucestershire, (as set out by the CFG initiative).
a) To develop specific actions and initiatives to deliver the priorities proposed by the group;
b) To develop an infrastructure and arrangements from which to develop ongoing and authentic dialogue with children and young people from across the county;
c) To develop a quality assurance and performance reporting framework from which to provide the Health and Wellbeing Board with evidence of the work of the group. This will form the basis for future service development and delivery activity.
d) To act as a focal point for the development of capacity across sectors to improve outcomes for children and young people in the county.
At its meeting on 21 July 2020, the HWB received an update on the initiative, including the impact of Covid-19 on taking the project forward. At this meeting, board members were asked to include the work of CFG in the wider recovery plan for the county. The HWB re-affirmed its commitment to the project and proposed that work continue over the summer period to identify areas of work where intervention and support might have a lasting effect.
In an further update to the HWB, in September 2020, it was announced that CFG intended to focus on activities that would enable rapid progress in response to Covid-19 related pressures. At this meeting, the HWB agreed to establish the Child Friendly Coalition/Strategic Group and agreed the 3 priority areas identified as the basis for the Year 1 Action Plan. The priority areas included: i) Children from pre-birth to 5 years old; ii) Transition to employment and Further Education, and iii) Mental health provision across all age ranges.
Presenting to the scrutiny committee at this meeting, members were advised that, under normal, (non-coronavirus), circumstances, progress had been expected to have been more advanced. Given the current demands on children’s social care services, the work was notably delayed. This had not, however, impacted on the commitment of partner agencies, where the key focus was to maintain and promote the well-being of children and young people during this challenging time.
In response to the update, the following comments were made at the meeting:
a) References to the role of the HWB as the formal means of seeking ‘approval’ of strategic decisions to be amended to the HWB providing a ‘supporting’ role;
b) Greater emphasis to be placed on the role and participation of parents;
c) Careful consideration of how best to engage with children, young people and parents was essential;
d) Highlighted during the pandemic, it was important to address any inequalities evident across the county in terms of access to education/creating opportunities for children/young people in care;
e) A revised Education Strategy for Gloucestershire will facilitate the work of CFG going forward, providing important links to schools and colleges.
One specific issue raised at the meeting related to the strategic priorities to be considered by the Children’s Wellbeing Coalition Board in March 2021.
The priorities included:-
a) All children and young people are supported to choose healthy lifestyles;
b) All children and young people have access to safe affordable transport;
c) All children and young people do well at all stages of learning and are equipped with the skills for life in the 21st Century;
d) All children and young people are happy and able to have fun growing up;
e) All children and young people enjoy the economic and social benefits of growth;
f) All children and young people are able to contribute to making Gloucestershire a sustainable county.
Commending the initiative, Cllr Lesley Williams proposed that the committee consider arranging a half day or full day workshop to evaluate the relevance of the strategic priorities referred to in the Child Friendly Gloucestershire pledge document. Questioning the strength of the priorities, in terms of CFG being able to deliver the promises, Cllr Williams stressed the need for scrutiny of this commitment.
Seeking the views of the committee on the value of undertaking this piece of the work at this time, Cllr Dr Andrew Miller, as Chair, agreed to liaise with officers and members after the meeting on the feasibility of Cllr Williams’ proposal. Action by Cllr Andrew Miller/Andrea Clarke
Prevented from addressing the committee due to technical issues, Dame Janet Trotter has since advised Cllr Miller that, whilst welcoming input from the scrutiny committee going forward, the proposal to scrutinise the relevance of the strategic priorities, (prior to consideration by the Children’s Wellbeing Coalition Board in March), might be premature.
Dame Janet clarified that the Coalition Board had yet to meet to consider proposed ambitions and to establish strategic work plans. A meeting is anticipated in March 2021.
Outlining the timeline for the next stage of work, the Director of Partnerships advised the committee that it was still early days and there was still a lot more work to be done. With the support of members and the young ambassadors at the meeting, the initiative was welcomed as a positive means of providing a voice to the young people of Gloucestershire. Noting the recent appointment of several new representatives, the committee welcomed the intention of building on existing resources and engaging with a wider spectrum of young people.
The update was noted with a request for regular updates at future meetings.