Informing Parliament : The Children’s Workforce and New Legislation

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Children has held three meetings since the start of 2008:

  • Tuesday 15 January: The Children’s Workforce: Health With speakers Dr Minoo Irani (Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH)), Marc Lyall, (Divisional Manager, Skills for Health) and Paul Burnell (Skills Active)
  • Tuesday 29 January: Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill With speakers Rebecca Endine, Bill Policy Lead, Department of Work and Pensions and Stephen Geraghty, Commissioner Designate, Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission
  • Monday 4 February: The Children’s Workforce – Education With speakers Christine Blower (Deputy General Secretary, National Union of Teachers), Dr Hilary Emery (Executive Director of Development, Training and Development Agency for Schools) and Maggie Farrar, (Operational Director, Every Child Matters and Standards, National College of School Leadership)

Tuesday 15 January: The Children’s Workforce: Health

Dr Irani, RCPCH, said that the Every Child Matters (ECM) programme and the new focus on the child and its family has implications for the workforce, and sense needs to be made of this to draw together all the strands of NHS reform. Local strategic planning organisations understand the background and need for ECM, but so far only a small number of paediatricians have engaged with the programme, and those are mainly working in a community context rather than from the whole range of paediatric services. Primary Care Trusts need to help them to become more engaged.

He said that Children’s Trusts and the NHS reforms have conflicting principles. The models that exist in the NHS Trusts do not fit with the Children’s Trusts. Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) are aiming to divest community services to other providers, and the small number of Community Paediatricians in PCTs are at risk of professional isolation, disengagement from medical colleagues and problems keeping up with the latest medical news. However, most children are seen predominantly by their GPs, and the GPs may not engage with the process, leading to further fragmentation of primary and community children’s services in localities.

Dr Irani said that in the future the healthcare services for children need to become fully integrated, organisationally, financially and beyond. They need to revisit workforce planning, training and service delivery models across the primary, community and secondary healthcare services, because at the moment they are very separate for each specialism. There needs to first be an emphasis on integration within the Health Service – if they can achieve this successfully, then it will provide a model for integration with the Children’s Trusts.

Marc Lyall, Divisional Manager, SkillsforHealth, said their four current themes are:

  1. continuing development of National Occupational Standards,
  2. developing a modern and consistent Qualification framework,
  3. improving the data systems used in the UK health sector and
  4. strengthening partnership working across the various bodies in health.

They have been reviewing the non higher education qualifications in health to see whether they meet sector needs in an expanding and changing sector, and developing an action plan to address the main areas of concern. They are working with other sectors to develop 14 to 19 Diplomas, such as the Society, Health and Development diploma they are working on with SkillsActive.

They recently launched their Joint Investment Framework, a new multi-million pound agreement with Strategic Health Authorities and the Learning and Skills Council, that is aimed at addressing the skills gaps. It will see up to £100 million invested into Health Services over the next four years to tackle skills gaps and on improving skills at levels 2, 3 and 4. They also have a role to play in developing the labour market intelligence – their reports on key issues and collecting demographic information helps organisations to plan and address problems.

  • They are looking at integrated working and are disseminating best practice to the workforce. Their Pathways for Progressions promotes induction best practice and making sure that the child is the core of everyone’s work. They are mapping standards and competencies to the Every Child Matters Common Core of Skills and Knowledge. On mental health care, they are putting together a core suite of competencies at tiers 3 and 4. They are looking at the role of maternity support workers and what training is available for them with the Royal College of Midwives. They are also developing national standards for the workforce on safeguarding children.

Paul Bonel, SkillsActive, said that his organisation is very excited about the work in the Children’s Plan around health. It is a Skills Council for a range of areas including sport and recreation, health and fitness, the outdoor and caravanning industry, and play work. Paul focused on the play aspects of their work, which are children-specific. There are a number of different activities qualifications, and it is important to engage with employers and make sure there is a kite mark for these qualifications.

They liaise with the sector to get advice from the industry on issues of concern, and they have forums to bring the workforce together. They are very involved with the Children’s Workforce Network (CWN) and its aspirations for the workforce, such as the Integrated Qualifications Framework for the whole children’s sector, and they are helping to develop the Social, Health and Development diploma with SkillsforHealth, which will be the first time that children in schools can learn about working with children themselves when they are older.

They are very keen on developing a registration system for play-workers through an ‘active passport’ to help them to keep a record of their qualifications and development as they move through their career. They have also developed a Foundation Degree for Playwork.

Tuesday 29 January: Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill

Rebecca Endine, Acting Director at the DWP for Child Maintenance Policy, said that child maintenance has had a difficult history. There are 2.5 million families who are due to receive maintenance, and yet only a third of them currently receive it. The key principles behind the current Bill is to work with parents and to give them choices, instead of the emphasis being on reclaiming the money for the state. It will remove compulsory use of the statutory system for making child maintenance arrangements and introduce an information support service to help parents make private payment arrangements and so forth.

The Government wants to change the culture around child maintenance – the perception that it is somehow acceptable not to pay it if you can get away with it – and it wants to make it socially unacceptable not to pay maintenance for your child. One of the incentives will be a higher level of disregard, rising to a £40 allowance by 2009. The system will become more cost effective because more money will be going to the poorest families, helping to combat child poverty.

The Bill will also set up a new body, the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (C-MEC), which will be an arms-length organisation from the Government, focused on delivering an effective system. There are a range of new powers to toughen up and streamline enforcement in relation to the minority who persistently avoid paying maintenance. For example, the Commission will now be able to take the money directly out of their bank accounts. The Bill also simplifies the assessment process. The current system requires a lot of information to be obtained from the parents. Now, they will be able to get that information directly form other Government systems, streamlining the whole process.

Stephen Geraghty, Commissioner Designate of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (C-MEC) said that assessments need to be simple, easy to understand, and stable – lasting for at least a year. At the moment, the assessment changes if there is any change at all in circumstances, which is hugely bureaucratic and costly. The UK is unique in that the state has to go to court to chase a child maintenance debt. In other countries, the assessments are enforceable documents themselves, and they have been learning from the USA, Australia and New Zealand about other models. Administrative sanctions need to be available as well, and data already held by other Government departments need to be used. The organisation needs to be able to operate at a cost effective level if it is to be of any use, and the changes in the Bill will help them to work in that direction.

Monday 4 February: The Children’s Workforce: Education

Dr Hilary Emery, Executive Director of Development, Training and Development Agency for Schools, and Maggie Farrar, Operational Director, Every Child Matters and Standards, National College of School Leadership, gave their presentation together. On joint working and Children’s Trusts, they said that joint working is variable in different places – some areas have real joint agency working, but in other places it is still very embryonic and some schools are still not very sure what their role is. From the perspective of school leaders, where the model of the Children’s Trust is clear, it works well. There are very good models developing where schools co-locate with other services. The biggest challenge that schools often find is in understanding their role in commissioning services.

On the impact on the workforce and delivering services, it is important to remodel the school workforce to enable teachers to focus on learning and the children, and move other tasks, such as administration, to other workers. This can create a whole integrated workforce where everyone in the school is playing a key role. The orientation of local authority services around the school is important, but all of this has an impact on the workforce, and training needs to prepare new teachers for working in a very different environment than they have done in the past. This need to be included in professional development for established teachers as well.

The impact on school leaders is consistent – they now see that Every Child Matters, the extended schools programme and the raising standards agenda are all parts of the same programme. They realise that they can not do this alone and that partnership working is vital; they realise that it extends their influence beyond the school and to the wider community, and that they have to see people as assets to work with, not problems to solve. Where schools are doing this, they are making great strides forward, but where they try to do it on their own, they are struggling.

The workforce needs to learn how to support each other and work well together, not telling each other what to do but instead moving individual cases forward. The ECM programme is at a fragile stage – the bedrock is slightly more secure, but schools need time to build the relationships and there needs to be greater national adoption of the extended schools approach. But they have come a very long way from the old labyrinth of services. They added that the Every Child Matters outcomes need to be reflected in the accountability of schools, and the work of OFSTED.

Christine Blower, Deputy General Secretary, National Union of Teachers (NUT), feels that Children’s Trusts and joint working are not yet working on the ground as well as they could, and the NUT is anxious that artificial deadlines are not set so that schools have the chance to implement the measures properly. A big problem in the past was that there often was not a shared agenda for the child between professionals. That is why it is very important that ECM does not become just a tick boxing exercise, which is what could happen if it is rushed, but instead must be imbedded properly. The co-location of services is a sensible development, but the are some concerns about issues of confidentiality for parents who are nervous about using certain services within a school.

Working with children and young people is not well paid in all its guises. If the children’s workforce is crucial to ECM and the child, said Christine, we have to consider how much we are paying that workforce – the whole of the workforce needs to be well respected, regarded and valued. On the question of the workforce’s engagement with ECM, the NUT is concerned that there are such a large number of things that have to be done in schools that the levels of engagement in ECM can be very varied. The NUT encourages their members to engage in ECM and extended services, but schools need to avoid patronising parents and engage with their local communities to find out what they want and need.

In the implementation of the ECM programme, the ‘enjoy’ aspect of ‘enjoy and achieve’ often gets left out – education needs to see the child in the round and all the outcomes as a whole, even while understanding school’s discreet role in learning. Multi-agency teams need to work properly on the ground, but they also need to understand where the leadership role lies and make sure that a shared agenda is created.

Forthcoming meetings of the APPGC are:

  • Tuesday 11 March: The Children’s Workforce: Social Care.

Please contact Sally Cole, Clerk to the APPGC on 020 7843 1907 or by email to [email protected]:

  • To be added to the email mailing list to receive minutes and invitations to meetings
  • For copies of minutes from any of the meetings

For any further information about the Group

Children’s workforce,
Every Child Matters,
Joint working,
Child maintenance,
Partnership working ,

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.