The will is there, but is the money?

What do the proposals in the green paper on children
‘Every Child Matters’ mean for the professionals who will be
charged with putting them into practice? Our team of experts assess
the likely impact.


Chief executive,
National Children’s Bureau

The green paper, ‘Every Child Matters’, contains a great deal to
be welcomed. The structural changes which it proposes should
a solid foundation for developing future services. Particularly
encouraging is the emphasis on joining up services, including
police and health, to share information and increase

Measures for protecting children acknowledge the vital role of
preventive work and early intervention. And nobody who cares about
children can fail to be heartened by plans to create an independent
children’s commissioner for England – a move recommended
earlier this year by the parliamentary joint committee on human

As ever, though, the challenge lies in moving from rhetoric to
reality. Although the government has played the long game with its
commitment to initiatives such as Sure Start and the teenage
pregnancy strategy, the lure of the quick fix is ever present. How
tempting will it be to shift energy and resources from wider
preventive work, whose results may not be seen for some years, to
dealing with children in crisis?

The government may apparently have given up spin, but it has not
ceased to care about media headlines – especially negative
headlines about children. 

There is also the fact that the green paper has not addressed
the growing tension within government between youth justice and
children’s services.

The National Children’s Bureau has concerns that many
services focus on crime prevention, rather than on the wider aim of
supporting children and families in need. There is a danger here
that if children are categorised as antisocial or at risk of
offending, they may miss out on services to address the root causes
of their behaviour, which may include mental health problems,
difficulties at home or disaffection in school.

In short, then, while the green paper provides a good start in
restructuring services, it does not yet demonstrate the
government’s ability to deliver. We are still waiting for the
radical and ambitious vision which would transform children’s
lives and put them at the heart of our communities.

Director of children’s services at the NSPCC

The green paper starts where it should – with the interests of
every child uppermost. All of us working with children need to
remember that every child has the right to be healthy and safe, to
make a contribution, to enjoy life and to be free of want.
Education and training must start with a coherent philosophy and
this one is properly aspirational.

The factual content of the green paper on training and education
is generally well known. It talks about the advance in professional
training to degree level, with a balance between academic input and
practice learning, and different routes to qualification including
workplace learning. It supports the need for child care worker to
undergo continuous development and to base practice on evidence and
reflective learning, supported by the General Social Care Council
and the Social Care Institute for Excellence.

The basis for training outlined in the green paper is not rocket
science either – although like rocket science it is not that easy
to achieve successful take-off. To serve children well, staff from
different agencies and professions need to communicate effectively
and understand each other’s practice.

Every Child Matters “encourages” in a pretty
directive way multi-disciplinary teams, multi-agency integration in
children’s trusts and single assessment processes with a lead
professional co-ordinating plans.

To achieve these we must all work harder than ever on those
elusive qualities of trust and mutual respect, linked with a deep
commitment to joint working. And shared training and common
learning can be a big help provided that managers make
multi-disciplinary approaches a priority.

Overall then, Every Child Matters provides a welcome reminder of
what is good practice for those of us who care about children and
their welfare. It may not be new but it supports positive change.
It reinforces the responsibility of us all to practice in the best
interests of children whatever our professional role or agency
remit through putting the child at the centre and managing our
shared contributions in a coherent reflective way.

Senior national officer Unison

It’s great to hear ministers standing up for social
workers. Stephen Ladyman started the trend in his article in ‘The
Times’, and now education secretary Charles Clarke and
children’s minister Margaret Hodge have used the launch of
the green paper to say what we have wanted to hear for a long time.
Social workers are expected to do a hugely difficult job for low
wages in understaffed teams without adequate training and yet, when
things go wrong, they are pilloried in the media.

So there is much in the green paper that Unison members are
likely to welcome. The focus on the needs of children as the heart
of the process for planning and delivering services, the emphasis
on building multi-disciplinary teams, the recognition that
effective partnership working has to grow out of local experience,
the establishment of the new statutory “safeguarding
children” boards – these are all proposals that the union is
likely to support.

But this is a green paper so Unison will be ensuring a wide
debate among frontline staff so we can submit their views by 1
December. And any debate is likely to focus on the controversial

We are happy to back the proposal to split social services for
children away from services for adults – and to merge them with
education. This is an experiment that has already been tried in a
few local authorities, and has not yet been evaluated. Is there a
danger that, in pursuing the laudable aim of joining up social
services for children and education, we will damage the link
between those protecting children and those helping parents and
carers with mental health problems.

Unison backs the children’s trusts experiment and we are
working with the civil servants who are steering the project to get
the workforce arrangements right.

But now – before the pathfinder trusts have been properly set
up, let alone evaluated – ministers decide that they want to see
trusts established everywhere. And is Ofsted the right body to take
on co-ordinating inspection arrangements? Our experience of the way
it treated staff when it took over “early years”
inspection is not encouraging. We have doubts that they understand
the nature of the social care workforce.

The big question is funding. No number of bright ideas will
transform services on their own. It is the social care workforce,
current and future, that must be won over to support and implement
the changes. That will require a real injection of new money – to
increase staffing, to boost salaries and to offer improved training

If necessary Unison will ask the awkward questions about funding
so that all the good ideas really do transform the lives of our

Chairperson, Centre for Social Policy,

If the comprehensive service for children and families proposed
in the green paper is to come about, a complementary relationship
between prevention, early intervention, treatment and subsequent
social prevention will be necessary. This will have to be
underpinned by a robust and extensive research base.

Effective prevention is not easy to achieve. Social and medical
reforms are littered with examples of unintended disasters. We have
to be certain of what we are doing, both ethically and clinically,
when we intervene to stop problems that might happen in the future
from developing. People will be hurt and public money wasted if the
causal processes producing the problem and the associated
probabilities of harm are misunderstood.

A tiered service approach also requires validated methods for
assessing children’s needs and setting thresholds that define
seriousness and justify responses. These are essential to ensure
that the right services reach the right people and that there is
consistency within and between agencies.

Without an adequate research foundation and a common language to
understand what happens to children and why, the resulting services
could be whimsical, supply-led and open to undue political and
financial constraint.

I believe that four strands of research are needed to inform the
intended developments. First, there has to be epidemiological
information on the incidence and patterns of need within the
general child population. Second, robust evaluations of
interventions, based on methods that compare outcomes for different
groups, are required.

Third, an accepted method of analysing services has to be in
place so that we can make meaningful comparisons of what children
and families receive. Fourth, we need to know more about the
conditions for successful innovation, implementation and
inter-agency work as so many good child care intentions get diluted
or come to nothing.

When we are confident about the aims, methods and likely success
of the new services, issues of management, training and physical
location that support effective service delivery can then be


Professor of social work and head of the Department of
Health and Social Care, Royal Holloway, London

Calculating the potential of new measures to improve the welfare
of children usually involves a choice between naive optimism and
cynical pessimism – a choice influenced heavily by the political
claims made for each new change. Every Child Matters provides a
current example of this phenomenon, with politicians convinced, and
in some cases convincing, about the magic properties of their new

There is a causal link between individual child tragedies and
new structures, whether it is Dennis O’Neill and the Children
Act 1948 or Victoria Climbié today. It is in these
circumstances that the balance between the promotion of child
welfare and the protection of children is itself most at risk.
Historically, “new” systems have themselves introduced
additional sources of damage to child welfare.

I feel the green paper avoids this pitfall. This is due largely
to the refusal of Lord Laming to give into pressure for, in his own
words, “an urgent reaction with flashing blue lights”.
Instead, he called for “an approach to children that
identified their needs at an earlier stage and responded to

The Victoria Climbié Report set the stage for the green
paper’s refusal to separate child protection from wider
polices to improve children’s lives, and its emphasis on
universal services as a prerequisite to more targeted
interventions. It has many very positive elements such as the
introduction of the five outcomes; the emphasis on early
intervention; a determination to support parents and carers; and an
acknowledgement of both the need for “workforce reform”
as well as the current contribution of child care professionals, 
including social workers.

Inevitably, the real challenges lie in the implementation. And
of course the key element, as yet unknown, is the sum of money to
be allocated – and the method of doing so. What we do already know
from evaluations of programmes such as Sure Start is the complexity
of setting up new partnerships at the local level, and that
co-location is itself no guarantee of a happy ending. Nor, in
isolation, is the appointment of a children’s commissioner.
The green paper deserves to be properly resourced.

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