Headlines: October 29th, 2008

Five years after the Every Child Matters Green Paper the Audit Commission says there is little evidence of better outcomes for children and young people. In a report today the Commission says “children’s trusts” created by the Government after the death of Victoria Climbie have been confused and confusing.

It says the trusts, special panels to coordinate services in each local area, get in the way of professionals who are working together on the ground, often through informal arrangements beyond the framework of trusts. The report – ‘Every Child Matters: Are We There Yet?’ – says a third of directors of children’s services believe the trusts’ purpose is not clear and that the resulting uncertainty is hampering efforts to deliver better services. The study found that local agreements worked better than external direction.

The evaluation is the first independent assessment of the government’s steps to bring together professionals involved with children. It followed Lord Laming’s inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie. In his report, published in 2003, Lord Laming complained about lack of joining up. The Commission study found too much time and energy were being spent on structures and process at the expense of improving the lives of children and young people and their families. It finds little evidence that children’s trusts offer value for money improvements.

The study’s main findings show trusts have little if any oversight of budgets and money for children’s services and that their relationships with other local partnerships is unclear. The trusts themselves are unsure whether they are strategic planning bodies or concerned with the detail of service delivery and that in going ahead with trusts, the government ignored the results of its own pilot study. Finally it found little evidence that mainstream money had been redirected by children’s trusts

Recommendations include removing barriers to local schemes of cooperation, giving children and younger people more say in how children’s services are designed and bringing in “missing partners” notably GPs and agencies concerned with jobs and skills.