Research Project

Families Matter: Reshaping local services to support families
14 November, 2008

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Families Matter: Reshaping local services to support familiesThe New Local Government Network has published an evaluation of care services in the UK and argues that adult services need to be more effectively joined up to better protect children at risk.

This week’s revelations surrounding the 2007 death of “Baby P” has highlighted concerns over current procedures and whether care systems are ability to adequately examine and take action on child abuse. Notwithstanding the eventual lessons to be learned from this tragic case, the NLGN paper argues more generally that while post-Climbie reforms have made children’s services more effective, integration within single services is not enough. Children and adult services are still too disjointed. The report argues that case workers should have access to information about a child’s entire household to ensure that they are not at risk from any relevant adult.

The report states:

“Existing frameworks are still not flexible enough to embrace a “family” approach and the reality may well be that people can still slip under the radar of preventive services, particularly as some of the families that are most at risk are hard to reach”.

“A culture of brokering, passing cases on to other agencies rather than directly providing support to families, has been identified as contributing to the continuing deficits in responding to families in need”.

The report recommends extending the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) for children at risk to the rest of the family so that a better picture of all influencing factors in a child’s situation can be assessed.

It also calls for more information sharing between services to establish “flags” or “triggers” of a child at risk. For example, admission to A&E services for alcohol abuse should automatically require information on children to be shared with children’s services.

The paper also urges better data sharing between different council offices and other public agencies, finding that schools and GPs often fail to share important information about a child with other agencies in the community. It also suggests that in some areas information between local charities and the local council are not always joined up.

NLGN also urges the Government to press ahead with its ContactPoint software, an ‘information sharing index’ that monitors adults who work with children which had been criticised as unnecessary expenditure in recent political debate.

The paper also identifies gaps in understanding between adult and children’s services, arguing:

“The divide between adult and children’s services often still inhibits the development of a whole family approach and generates challenges for families and for professionals. The barrier between adult and children’s services is caused by a lack of understanding of each other’s roles and differing priorities. Adults’ and children’s services tend to work in specialised ways; each has its own organisational, legislative and practice challenges”.

All NLGN media enquiries to James Hulme – 020 7357 0116/ 07970721434.

Publication Date: 14 November 2008