Headlines: July 11th, 2003

The government has announced the creation of thirty-five Children’s Trust pathfinders which will help a radical drive to transform the delivery of services for children. The pathfinders will bring together children’s Social Services, Education and Health Services into a single local structure designed around the needs of children, young people and their families.The move was announced jointly by the Health Minister, Stephen Ladyman and the Children’s Minister, Margaret Hodge, who said the setting up of the Pathfinders system marked the start of a drive to bring together children’s services to provide coordinated support to children and families. The first trusts, she said, would help the government to establish what worked as it built integrated services in local communities.

The Trust pathfinders vary in size and scope with some focusing on particularly vulnerable children, such as those with disabilities and some bringing together services for all children. The intention is that they will all establish a partnership between health, education and social services and many also involve partners from other statutory agencies and the independent and voluntary sector.

They will develop the key features of an integrated support system including common approaches to assessment, improved information sharing between agencies, greater use of multi-disciplinary teams and joint training as well as combining resources between agencies and setting up pooled budgets. They will have agreed strategies and objectives and a clear system of accountability.

Stephen Ladyman said the government had been pleased with the extent to which local authorities and primary care trusts had embraced the opportunity offered by the idea, with many hospital trusts also becoming involved.

Local authorities were invited in January to express interest in becoming Children’s Pathfinders after the publication of the findings of the inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie. The 35 Trusts will receive funding for three years to help them to become established. The Government will evaluate them to help identify lessons that will benefit other areas.