Education and Skills Committee

5 April 2005

Every Child Matters

Main findings

“The aims of Every Child Matters are entirely laudable and the Government deserves to be congratulated for its ambitious vision.  The challenge now - and this should not be underestimated - is implementation. Some areas are already making good progress but consistency across the country will be the key. Frontline workers and managers need to be supported in appropriate ways by the Government.”

“We think that there are significant challenges in many areas. Joint training is crucially important - both in terms of breaking down barriers between professionals and upgrading the skills of in-service staff  working in education, health, social services, the voluntary and community sector, and elsewhere. Yet this is expected to be funded, in the main, locally, and this may be very difficult where there are other pressures on budgets.”

“Another area we have concerns about is the creation of a series of linked IT-based ‘child indexes’ or databases. Child indexes are likely to be costly, yet the research evidence currently available does not prove that they will be worthwhile, or that serious operational obstacles can be overcome. The Government has agreed that there is a need to progress very slowly in this area, and we strongly agree. Pending further research and analysis, the possibility remains that money allocated to child indexes could be more usefully spent elsewhere.”

What the report recommends

• Child Indexes/ databases: The Government should proceed with the utmost caution with proposals to introduce an electronic file on each child in England - so-called child indexes. Existing evidence does not demonstrate that indexes are likely to be of value.

• Funding the reforms - and workforce training in particular: Extra, dedicated funding for specific aspects of the reforms should be considered. For example, training for professionals will be crucial to success but will be difficult to resource from existing budgets.

• Children’s Commissioner: many have fears that the Commissioner for England will be unduly constrained by his legal remit and will not be as powerful as counterparts in other  countries. A review of the Commissioner’s remit should therefore be undertaken within three years of the establishment of the office.

• Ensuring the co-operation of all local partners: The levers in the system to ensure full co-operation - in particular by schools, GPs and some other services - are currently not strong enough and should be strengthened.

• Joined-up working within and between Government departments.

Every Child Matters’ success rests on joined-up working within and between Government departments - and while there is evidence of progress there are still tensions in the system which need to be addressed.

Notes for editors

In 2003, the Government laid out proposals for wide-ranging reform of children’s services in the Green Paper, Every Child Matters, bringing together traditionally discrete services provided by health, social services, education, voluntary/ community organisations, and others. This brings new areas of responsibility to the Department of Education and Skills, and new scrutiny responsibilities to this Committee.

Every Child Matters proposes a number of measures to safeguard and promote the well-being of children, young people and families are proposed, and to enable them to achieve five main outcomes: being healthy, staying safe, enjoying and achieving, making a positive contribution, and achieving economic well-being. Proposals focused on:

• Improving support for children, young people and parents at early stages to prevent serious problems arising at a later stage, supplemented with more specialist help where necessary.

• Better access to more integrated support services, often provided on single sites, for example, Extended Schools or Sure Start Children’s Centres

• More integrated working between professionals involved with the same child or young person - supported by new common assessment and information- sharing systems, such as computerised child indexes.

• Improved planning, co-ordination, commissioning and joint governance of children’s services across Local Authority areas, through the establishment of Children’s Trusts.