Putting the community at the heart of children’s services: A Call for Best Practice

June 18, 2020  |  By Pawda Tjoa, Senior Policy Researcher, NLGN

Have you been supporting frontline practitioners and your community to grow their collective capacity to tackle the issues that affect them most? If this resonates with you then please get in touch by emailing ptjoa@newlocal.org.uk

Over the last decade, councils have had to deliver services amidst rising demand and cuts to their funding; they have had to do more with the diminishing resources available to them. To try and mitigate against this, a growing number of councils have adopted a new approach which taps into the capacity and experience of children and families in shaping local services, thereby growing their own community capability and maximising shared local assets.

This community-led preventative approach to public services is the centrepiece of our report From Tiny Acorns: Communities shaping the future of children’s services, published last year. The report highlights some emerging examples of what a community-led and preventative model might look like, drawing from examples like Doncaster’s Children’s Services Trust’s Young Advisors who inform service design and delivery; Leeds’ community teams who help design local universal services; and Westminster’s Family Hub which develops and sustains positive relationships through a whole-family approach.

But implementing this preventative approach is not without its challenges, and the pandemic has made this work more difficult – disrupting existing services such as parenting classes and home visiting programmes. Furthermore, with referrals to children’s services falling by over 50 per cent in some councils during the lockdown, councils will face the enormous dual challenge of meeting a likely spike in demand over the coming months, while maintaining a focus in designing a preventative model fit for the future.

At this important juncture, we will be working in partnership with Research in Practice to develop a publication for strategic leads to explore how local authorities can work with families and the community to develop community capacity. The vital role of children and families in the design and delivery of local support is central to the development of a much more preventative—rather than reactive—local support model. But to truly maximise this local capacity, the relationship between the council and community need to be recalibrated.

This publication will outline what this new relationship means in practice for local authorities, and what we can learn from the variety of approaches developed by different local authorities to support families and the wider community in growing their capacity both in normal times and in a time of crisis.

Over the next few weeks, I will be looking for best practice examples and I will be speaking to key individuals from local authorities and their partners who have been deeply involved in working with their local children and families in tackling the issues that matter most to them.

If you are a council officer who has been supporting frontline practitioners and your community in growing their collective capacity to address the issues that affect them most, we would love to hear from you. Please do get in touch with me by emailing ptjoa@newlocal.org.uk, by Friday 26 June.