Inequalities in children’s well-being can only be overcome through strong and flexible leadership in children’s services, a government-funded study has found.
After two years of extensive consultation, the final Narrowing the Gap report calls on sector leaders to tackle inequalities through stronger partnerships between agencies and better use of data to identify gaps.
Gap is “one of our greatest challenges”
Services must be built around the views of children, families and communities and draw on frontline experience in order to meet “one of the nation’s greatest challenges”, the final guidance says.
The Narrowing the Gap project has been hosted by the Local Government Association and overseen since October 2008 by the Centre for Excellence and Outcomes in Children’s and Young People’s Services, with funding from the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
It was launched in response to concerns that despite major investment in public services in England, there remained too wide a gap in outcomes between disabled, looked-after and other disadvantaged children and their peers.
Services need to focus on disadvantaged
Christine Davies, director of C4EO, said the findings showed effective leadership at all levels of services and “an explicit focus on what gaps exist and how best to close them” were “absolutely crucial”.
The guidance says there is an important role for children’s trusts, local safeguarding children boards, and directors of children’s services – all introduced in England under the Every Child Matters agenda.
Case studies available
It calls on executive boards to take a strategic approach rather than focusing on operational details in narrowing the gap in outcomes. However, it adds that decision-making must take frontline experiences into account.
The guidance contains a number of case studies drawn from children’s centres, schools and children’s trusts.