Prime Minister signals overhaul of services for children at risk

Prime Minister Tony Blair promised a green paper last week on
identifying ways of improving services for vulnerable children and
young people.

The Children at Risk green paper, which will be published
early next year, will consider measures to reduce the levels of
educational underachievement, offending, antisocial behaviour,
teenage pregnancy and ill-health.

The paper will be drafted by a new sub-committee in the Cabinet
Office, chaired by chief secretary to the Treasury Paul Boateng.

Minister for children and young people John Denham will have
day-to-day control of the work of the Cabinet Office team. He said:
“Prevention has been at the heart of the government’s approach to
tackling social exclusion. Sure Start, the Children’s Fund,
targeted services to children in deprived areas, and Connexions are
widening opportunities to all children and families. But we have to
go further.”

In August, Denham announced that local systems to identify, track
and refer children at risk of offending, drug taking or teenage
pregnancies would be put in place over the next year (news, page 6,
22 August).

The green paper will focus on the identification, referral and
tracking of children and the provision of mainstream and specialist
services to them. It will also look at an overhaul of existing
arrangements and services working with young people, including
social services and youth justice services, as well as the role of
schools, families and communities.

“The green paper will enable us to look at the whole scope of
children at risk to ensure we tackle problems as early as
possible,” Denham concluded.

Children’s charities have welcomed the announcement, although head
of policy at Barnardo’s Liz Garrett raised concerns that the
emphasis on identification, referral and tracking might skew the
work of the Children’s Fund.

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