New children’s performance indicators criticised

Proposals on performance indicators for children’s services from the Department for Children, Schools and Families neglect key elements of the Every Child Matters agenda, a leading director of children’s services has warned.

David Hawker (pictured), chair of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services’ standards, performance and inspection committee, said the indicators for councils were insufficiently focused on children’s enjoyment, participation in services and their communities and economic well-being.

DCSF officials unveiled the proposed 84 children’s services indicators at the association’s inaugural annual conference in Manchester last week.

These are due to feed into a national set of 200 indicators for councils, which will be published in the autumn. Councils will be annually rated against all 200 from 2009 as part of the new comprehensive area assessment, which will replace all existing inspection systems for local government, including the adult social care star ratings and the children’s annual performance assessment.

Hawker said that though the indicators were meant to cover all five Every Child Matters outcomes, two of the five – “making a positive contribution” and “achieving economic well-being” – were neglected, accounting for just 10 indicators between them.

Specifically, he pointed out there was insufficient focus on tackling poverty or children’s involvement in designing and delivering services.

Hawker also said there was a heavy emphasis on achievement as opposed to enjoyment, with over half the indicators relating to educational attainment and none to play.

He said the government would need to give councils the space to focus on areas outside the national indicator set and establish their own local targets.

Addressing last week’s Association of Directors of Children’s Services conference, DCSF director of local transformation Peter Lauener said the indicator set was “the best with the available data” but suggested it could be reformed in future.

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