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'STRUCTURES DON'T SAVE CHILDREN'

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The proposals in the government's green paper, Every Child Matters, do not do enough to recognise that lives of chi...
The proposals in the government's green paper, Every Child Matters, do not do enough to recognise that lives of children extend beyond the education and social services departments of their local authority. They are too limited and overly focused on local government structures, says the Society of Local Government Chief Executives and Senior Managers.

Improving the lives of children depends on every single part of the public service - not just education and social services departments, says SOLACE, which will launch its response to Every Child Matters at a House of Commons reception tonight. The proposed appointment of directors of children's services does not pursue the logic of the government's own arguments.

The society has evaluated the green paper against the acid test of: Will the government's proposals save a child's life, improve a child's educational prospects or change a child's social circumstances for the better? The answer, says SOLACE, is that the government's proposals are incomplete and too narrowly focused to make the necessary impact on the lives of children.

Though SOLACE recognises and has welcomed the considerable amount of energy and initiative the government's proposals have created, it has serious reservations about a number of the ways in which the government is proposing to achieve those aims and believes that if implemented - without amendment - the government is in danger of undermining its own objectives.

To avoid this happening SOLACE has drawn up its own proposals which it believes will achieve a better future for children and young people. They are:

- Incentives to make organisations work better together

- Chief executives should have a stronger and more formal role in the appointment of directors

- The creation of a director of children's services able to meet local needs

- An evaluation of frontrunners who are leading change

- A shared risk analysis that means the scale and pace of chan ge are determined by local performance. It is not credible that in an area where services are performing well and organisations are working effectively together, it should be required to disrupt those arrangements arbitrarily.

Tim Byles, chairman of SOLACE's management board, said: 'If the government ignores our proposals there is a serious risk that having significantly raised expectations, the government will pursue measures which will leave many needs and expectations unmet. There are many, SOLACE among them, who are committed to achieving the outcomes outlined in the Green Paper.

'Because every child does matter, we hope the government does not ignore the views of those who want it to succeed. This means agreeing to work with us constructively to produce solutions that are rooted in evidence, prioritised on the basis of actual risk and tailored to differing local needs to give effective outcomes for children and young people around the country.'

NOTES

1. SOLACE is the representative body for senior strategic managers working in the public sector. Through its policy and professional development activities, the society promotes excellence in public service. Its commercial arm, SOLACE Enterprises, provides high quality, customer-focused and practical support to local government and the public and voluntary sectors, both in the UK and internationally. The SOLACE Foundation carries out educational and other work which falls within the charitable aspects of the Society's objectives.

2. The SOLACE response to the Green Paper Every Child Matters is available here.

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