Publicly-funded children’s services providers across all sectors should be placed under a duty to co-operate in promoting children’s well-being, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services has said.
The ADCS made the far-reaching proposal in its response to a government consultation on strengthening children’s trust arrangements.
Both the ADCS and the National Children’s Bureau agreed on key proposals to put all schools, sixth-form colleges, school forums, pupil referral units and publicly-funded 16-19 education providers under the Children Act 2004’s duty to promote children’s well-being.
However, the ADCS would like to see this extended to include all publicly-funded providers of children’s health, education and care services, “so that the aim of an integrated whole system approach is realised”. The association also called for GPs to come under the duty to cooperate, in order to “support more joined-up commissioning decisions”, a proposal also backed by the NCB.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families said it would welcome views on how GPs might pay further “regard to the wider plans for improving outcomes for children”. The Children Act duty currently applies to councils, primary care trusts, youth offending teams, probation boards and learning and skills councils.
The DCSF also proposed that all partner agencies take “ownership” of children and young people’s plans, which both the ADCS and the NCB accepted. The plans – currently the responsibility of councils – set out priorities for children’s services in each area.
The ADCS went further by suggesting that all agencies should sign off and jointly fund the plans, and that they should be legally obliged to do more than have regard to them”, as proposed in the DCSF consultation document.
The ADCS said accountability for performance should be shared in plans, but the NCB warned that local authorities should remain the lead agency to avoid “undermining” the lines of responsibility.
The proposals for legislation, designed to improve outcomes for vulnerable children, are set to be included in the forthcoming Education and Skills Bill, which goes before parliament in 2008-9.
➔ More on the government’s reforms to children’s trusts from www.communitycare.co.uk/10948