Delivering children’s services through the voluntary sector

Community Care shares the experiences and views of professionals and service users delivering and receiving public services via voluntary sector organisations

Practitioners’s Views

John Andrews is senior service manager, Rainer, Northamptonshire

“We have worked in partnership with Northamptonshire youth offending team for 11 years. The Yot’s statutory obligations are contracted out to us and we provide remand management services and Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programmes.

“There’s a lot of talk about the divide between the voluntary, private and statutory sectors but it’s not my experience on the ground. The issue is about who is in the best position to do the job and deliver the services.

“I think Rainer brings something important. We have enormous flexibility and can address a whole range of needs that young people have with a holistic approach that is particularly important for young people who offend.

“That doesn’t take anything away from what our colleagues in the statutory sector do. At its best, the system is one where various agencies work together in a congrous way, where there’s mutual respect, and where different skills and experiences work together for a common good.”

Jayne James, senior manager in the Scope Inclusion Team, a multi-disciplinary service for disabled children based in the south west, run by national disability charity Scope.

“Public money should be spent on delivering good quality, innovative services that meet actual needs. At Scope Inclusion, we don’t want to run a service that supports the status quo or generates profit we want to deliver a service that makes a practical difference to the lives of disabled children.

My job has given me solid first-hand experience of the needs of disabled children and their families, and a real understanding of how they want their services delivered.

In the voluntary sector, we also have a well-deserved reputation for innovation. Scope Inclusion is a first: a multi-disciplinary team with the breadth of expertise to meet the wide-ranging needs of disabled children.

It is important that the experience and innovation of the voluntary sector is recognised and that charities recover the full costs of the services they provide to local authorities.”

Norma Keery, family support worker (early intervention) at Barnardo’s Gateshead Family Resource Centre.

“My post is the only one in the centre that is funded by Gateshead Council. I am commissioned to provide emotional and practical support when parents are first told that their child has been diagnosed with a disability or impairment.

“It works really well here. It doesn’t feel like there’s a conflict of interest because hopefully we are looking for the best interests of the children and families, and as long as the work we are commissioned to do fits with Barnardo’s values.

“Here, we have the flexibility to change services in response to the needs of families, within the council’s remit. So, for example, I’ve moved from purely providing one-to-one work to group work too. It’s much easier to do this than it would be if you were based in a council because there’s less red tape and we can pull in funding from other places.

“Parents’ perception are still of social workers whipping kids away so they are happier to talk to Barnardo’s, even though I’m a social worker too.”

User View

Geraldine Greene is a 58-year old grandmother whose autistic grandson attends a local authority-funded project provided by children’s charity NCH in Bury

“I care for my 10-year-old grandson Michael, who has autism, because his parents – my daughter and son-in-law – work full-time. He was diagnosed as autistic when he was two and I gave up work and started to care for him daily when problems began to emerge 18 months ago.

“It had never occurred to us to go to social services for help because we are a family we take responsibility for our needs and this is how we had always functioned.

“There is a stigma for families involved in social services, especially if you’ve not had cause to go to them before. There is ignorance about what social services do as much as there is reluctance to use them. If I had been told to go to social services in the past – before it had been explained to me what they do – I’d have thought: ‘Why, they have nothing to do with me and my family. They are for problem families they are there for other people.’

“I started to use The Re:d Centre in Bury four years ago after a friend whose child has special needs and uses the centre recommended it. We were so desolate and lacking in support that we visited the project to see what they could offer, because at that time we weren’t in touch with social services.

“We were very impressed by what we saw there, particularly the care and professionalism of the staff, which didn’t get in the way of their understanding. There was a real warmth at the centre and it was, and still is, very child-focused. The project is funded by the local authority and it’s a great example of partnership working with the voluntary sector.

“The staff have to be careful how they group the children together because of their different needs. It’s not a childminding service it’s a developmental opportunity for Michael and he goes there for three hours on a Saturday. It has made a huge difference because he is socialising and my daughter’s other three children get some time with their parents.

“In the early days, The Re:d Centre saved our sanity – well mine at least. We were coming to terms with the devastation that a child, who appeared to be ‘normal’, had a bleak future. The project is reassuring and comforting, allowing us to breathe, and keep us hopeful because we’ve seen Michael develop.”

Related article
A look at the work of the National Council of Voluntary child care organisations

Children’s Services

This article appeared in the 17 May issue under the headline “Playing to the strengths of children’s charities”



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