The new childcare policy will soon prove its value, says Ronnie Hill
FOR children and young people in Scotland, 2014 was a significant year. Childcare was a central debating point during the referendum campaign and the passing of a new Children and Young People Act promises to bring substantial benefits to children and young people across the country. The new legislation offers the opportunity to extend childcare for the very young, provide more support into adulthood for young people looked after by the state and additional help for grandparents and other family members who care for children and young people.
One key development for children and young people who are disabled or living with long-term conditions is the statutory footing on which “Getting It Right For Every Child” will be placed by Summer 2016. This is the Scottish Government’s approach to improving services supporting the wellbeing of children and young people.
Already we know that “Getting It Right For Every Child” promotes earlier intervention, offers more streamlined and better coordinated support, reduces the need for statutory intervention through the Children’s Hearing system, and cuts down bureaucracy.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is the foundation of the new policy. It states that the best interests of the child must be the primary concern in decisions about them and emphasises that when adults are making decisions, children have a right to have a say and to have their views taken into account. The Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the Alliance), a third- sector intermediary with 800 members of organisations representing disabled people and those who live with long-term conditions, has long promoted the view that “there should be no decision about me, without me”. For us it was essential that this right is enshrined in the Act, making it a requirement to ascertain the views of children, young people and their parents or carers and take them into account in any decision-making processes.
Some people have raised concerns about how the the new policy works. But the “named person service” will mean that every child or young person (and their family) will know who they can turn to if and when they need any help. Some have claimed this is too big an intrusion into family life, but evidence from pilot areas demonstrates that while the service must be made available to everyone, it is more often used by the few who need it most.
Parents of disabled children have told us that it is possible for between 20 and 100 professionals to be involved in supporting their child and family. One parent speaking at a conference recently, whose child has complex needs support from a number of services and many different professionals, said that the coordination provided by a lead professional is essential to help her manage the day-to-day practicalities of her child’s care and helping to coordinate her child’s plan.
A plan for children and young people who need help to support and safeguard their wellbeing is essential for setting out how agencies parents and carers can collaborate. To be truly effective, plans should be written in plain language and be accessible, in formats tailored to the needs of children and young people. To ensure their changing needs are met, children and young people must be involved in reviewing their plans.
It remains unacceptable to experience disjointed health and social care support and services and the ongoing process of health and social care integration across Scotland must also offer opportunities to simplify this process – as well as listening more effectively to peoples’ views. “Getting It Right For Every Child” holds the promise of better integrated services where children’s and parent’s voices are heard.
Through collaborative working with parents, children and young people, the Alliance’s aim is to empower families. Families who know about the new approach to wellbeing can make best use of it to influence and shape the help they and their children need.
• Ronnie Hill is Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) Consultant - Children and Young People.www.alliance-scotland.org.uk