The Green Paper on children at risk will have a special focus on
workforce issues, according to Children and Young People’s
Unit director Althea Efunshile. There is concern that many of the
new services and programmes for children and young people are
fishing in the same, small pool for staff, often competing with
longer established services such as child protection.
In the keynote address at the New Beginnings conference,
organised jointly by 0-19 magazine and the CYPU, Efunshile said
the Green Paper’s purpose was to shift the balance in
services from crisis intervention to prevention for children at
risk of educational failure; offending; being victims of crime,
bullying or abuse; or poor physical or mental health.
But Sharon Moore, principle policy officer at the
Children’s society, warned that Children at risk are being
denied services due to the Government’s misplaced focus on actual
and potential youth offending.
“Children’s organisations are concerned that resources are
focussed away from children with current needs to those who are
labelled a risk in society,” she said.
She added that at present children have to be seen as potential
offenders to receive services and that offending was focused on at
the expense of other needs. “The narrowing of the focus down on
offending and potential offending denies the needs of others,” she
Moore also voiced doubts about the ability to target potential
offenders before they break the law. “The truth is we cannot
predict which child will offend,” she said.
Efunshile said both the Green paper and the Nation’s
Strategy for Children and Young People were still expected to
appear by early summer. The strategy would set outcomes across the
whole of children and young people’s lives, and would provide
a focus for policy over the coming ten years and beyond.
She argued for preventive approaches within universal services
for children, instead of singling out particular children for
separate provision. “We cannot serve children at risk well if
we serve them in isolation from the rest. Preventive approaches in
universal services are key, and support for children and young
people needs to be located in the context of wider community
regeneration and better outcomes for all children.
“The key to improving outcomes is to transfer the service
principles that we know are working.”