We held a very successful “Corporate Parenting” Conference today at the Marine Hotel, North Berwick. .
Adam Ingram MSP , Minister for Children and Early Years gave a well informed and committed keynote address and emphasised the need for us to collectively address the needs of Looked After and Accommodated Children and to focus upon the improving outcomes for such children, namely:
- Raising Attainment
- Improved Leaver Destinations
- Reducing offending
- Improved Health
In the follow up questions Adam was asked a question about the need to reconfigure services and his vision for the future. He alluded to an extensive vision but focused upon Early Years support and intervention encouraging us to reprioritise around this point if we are to make a difference to chidren’s lives.
In recent discussions with colleagues from many different fields I’ve found a similar willingness to engage with this agenda – although it remains to be seen if we can begin to reprioritise budgets to this area. Having said that we had a very useful example last week when we were able to redirect some work towards early years. In a meeting with Diane Littlejohn we were discussing our parenting strategy and Diane was telling us about the transition work she is doing in one of our clusters to help all parents make the transition from being the parents of a child to the parent of a teenager (which any of us who have been parents will tell you is quite an adjustment). Nevertheless, we were able to connect the conversation to a recent meeting we had about a desperate need to support parents of very vulnerable young children to help the child adjust from home to nursery and nursery to primary school.
The emerging proposal was that we would be better directing Diane’s expertise to this age group with a view to making a long term impact – as opposed to trying to intervene in a situation which might be beyond help. Now I know the danger here is that we have a “lost generation” but if we are serious about making a difference we need to move from “trying to fix” to “trying to prevent”. As I’m finding out the consequences of reprioritising funding from previous areas of emphasis to other areas can cause significant distress and concern amongst those who perceive themselves to be losing out in this adjustment.
I reckon the solution/challenge here is to engage with all interest groups to describe what want to do, why we are doing it and involve them in the solution – without this dialogue the system can begin to break down with single issue groups only focusing upon their own needs and challenging the wider agenda which is to advocate for the needs of all children.
It’s this agenda which I’m finding professionally challenging but the potential rewards for taking this approach seems to me to be too good to miss.