The government affirmed the importance of Every Child Matters at the National Children and Adult Services Conference in
Brighton last week and the need for agencies other than councils to engage with it.
Amid worries that the government is placing more emphasis on school standards than it does on children’s services reforms and the involvement of other agencies including schools, ministers and officials used the conference to address delegates’ fears.
Education secretary Alan Johnson indicated that regulations on the use of the dedicated schools grant – the main source of funding for schools – could be relaxed so that it could be spent on a broader range of children’s services, such as school nurses.
He said he recognised that some schools held financial reserves which were just “lying fallow” and gaining access to these was an issue among social care professionals.
Graham Badman, managing director of children, families and education at Kent Council, who questioned Johnson on the issue,
said: “It’s impossible to fund school nursing through the grant. We need to free up the strictures so schools can deliver on the whole Every Child Matters agenda.”
Tom Jeffrey, director-general for children, young people and families at the Department for Education and Skills, admitted DfES had not been clear enough about the interdependence of Every Child Matters and schools standards.
“There will be no more mixed messages,” he said. “There’s no Every Child Matters without school standards and no school standards without Every Child Matters.”
Jeffrey said DfES had been asking some “testing questions” about whether central and local government was on track to deliver the Every Child Matters agenda.
“In many respects we are ahead of schedule but some of the answers were pointed, and we need to listen to them,” he said.
Care services minister Ivan Lewis, who is responsible for child health, said he was still not convinced that many health bodies were engaged with Every Child Matters.
Lewis said social care needed to look at “the levers” it had to engage the NHS.