Local children’s services thrive amid national challenges, report reveals

Children’s services continue to make progress and maintain strong performance despite facing significant national challenges, according to a recent report commissioned by the Local Government Association.

The report highlights the inspiring work of local partnerships, emphasising that transformation is achievable at a local level with the right supporting factors. However, it also notes that the achievements of children’s services are overshadowed by broader systemic challenges.

These challenges include the lack of consistent national policy coordination, structural issues in recruiting and retaining the workforce, insufficient placements for children with complex needs, and the necessity for increased investment in services. Local councils are addressing these challenges through a cultural shift in the workforce and enhanced partnership collaboration. The report emphasises the importance of incorporating the voices and lived experiences of children in the improvement process, suggesting that these could serve as a useful benchmark for national policy.

The report identifies seven key enablers crucial to enhancing children’s services and sustaining high performance. These enablers, which have proven effective since the last research in 2016, include a strategic approach, effective leadership and governance, engagement and support for the workforce, collaboration with partners, establishment of supporting infrastructure, promotion of innovation, and judicious resource utilisation. The report asserts that these enablers continue to offer a robust and practical framework for improvement.

What’s more, the report acknowledges the undeniable impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. It has brought new children and families to the attention of children’s services, intensifying demands on mental health services for both children and adults. The report highlights that the pandemic has accelerated the increasing complexity of the needs of young people, particularly adolescents.

Cllr Louise Gittins, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:

“It is very positive to see that councils are continuing to deliver improvements in children’s services, and a testament to their tireless efforts to ensure children and young people get the support they need.

However this report is a reminder of the much wider, systemic challenges faced by councils, including escalating funding concerns.

While councils have responded well to these challenges, what is clear is that we need to see a national response that provides the investment and reform that children’s services desperately need.

The Autumn Statement is an opportunity for the Government to provide significant additional funding for all councils that can be wisely invested in stabilising the current system to ensure strong foundations on which to build future reform.”

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