Mixed Blessings

This month is all about writing the new Plan. I have now tidied
my desk, sharpened all my pencils, picked old blue tack off the
wall and hoovered the office twice to avoid starting. Old habits
die hard and I even asked our regional adviser how long it needed
to be – “just long enough” was the reply.

The thrust of the plan has to cover the way that the
Children’s Fund will continue to grow early intervention and
preventive services and support the development of children’s
trusts. Locally, concepts of what a children’s trust may or
may not look like are at best foggy, so the idea of describing a
journey towards one has the potential to be great fun. My current
version argues that the journey begins in a taxi and ends on a
packed bus with all of us taking turns at driving. Previous
versions were more Herculean, involving the slaying of many-headed
public sector beasts and banishing protected budgets to eternal

A dose of writer’s block meant I was only too happy to get
out of the office and attend a launch event that service users and
children were to play a big part in.

Pretty shamefully my contact with children since starting the
job has been occasional at best, this in spite of the fund’s
role of successfully championing participation and involvement.

I fidget through the well rehearsed and fairly dry platitudes of
a series of suits who earnestly describe again and again how every
child “really matters” and “partnerships are the future”. The
presentations lack substance and offer little in the way of vision
to help with the writing of my plan. Top of the bill are the

Two children eventually take the platform, both wearing school
uniforms. Each delivers a moving testimonial about managing against
the odds, describing simply what life was like. It was done with
the sort of proud but nervous excitement of children reading their
story to a class. At the end they said “thank you” and then giggled
at all the clapping.

I was blown away but felt very uneasy that they had exposed
their world so graphically to so many strangers. Although clearly
enjoying their experience, it was obvious that they had been
slotted into proceedings rather than the event being built around
them and their needs – not good. Putting my misgivings to one
side, the richness of their insight and judgement about what made a
difference was utterly compelling. I left the event humbled but

Sitting back at my PC I revisit the section of the Plan covering
participation which is rightly one of the cornerstones of the new
guidance. After re-reading it I reckon I could summarise it as
– “must do more, must try harder and must do properly or not
at all”. I am fighting the urge, but I sense another bout of
hoovering coming on. Cheers.



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