A Better Future for Young Minds
Last week I chaired a meeting of the Children’s Inter-agency Advisory Group (CIAG).
This is the only established forum where all agencies in the children’s sector sit around the same table. It brings together the voluntary and statutory sector, including children’s charities, local authorities, health and police, to improve outcomes for children, particularly the most disadvantaged.
A small number of meetings are held throughout the year to capture issues of common concern and enable a collaborative approach to taking forward issues that are priorities for all concerned. CIAG combines our voices and ensures that together we can support important developments more strongly and bring influence to bear powerfully by speaking as one.
One of the recent issues we have focused on is children and young people’s mental health. Earlier this year we were joined by colleagues from the Department of Health who explained the emerging outcomes from the children and young people’s mental health task force, which was just concluding, and outlined some of the likely recommendations. Since then, of course, we have seen the publication of the report, entitled Future in Mind.
So, discussion last week focused on how we could use our influence and ensure effective implementation of the areas we felt were most important. There was lively discussion - always a good sign that people feel passionately about the subject - and a diverse set of perspective were reflected, which is the value of this particular forum!
As you might hope, there was also a lot of consensus.
- Everyone felt that ensuring the ability to intervene early across the whole system was important. The focus on the role of schools is welcome, but it is critically important that contributions from across the wider system to early help are also clearly in view
- There is agreement that good data is needed, both to understand the current level of investment and the capacity of the system to respond. We will also need to track progress, so we must know where we’re starting to have good baselines to measure against
- There must be capacity in the system to deal with early distress without stigmatising those people experiencing problems
- There needs to be mechanisms for holding local areas to account. There is a strong shared feeling that the current postcode lottery is not acceptable
- And we must encourage long-term perspective, ensuring that the workforce across the system is equipped and there is sufficient infrastructure to sustain an improved level of support
So CIAG is writing to ministers in the Department of Health and the Department for Education, seeking an early meeting to discuss how the sector can support the delivery of the ambitions in the Future In Mind report. And by speaking for such a wide range of organisations, with one voice, we will hope to positively influence what happens next in this critical area. But, as well as influencing, we are committed to finding the right ways to support the improvements we all want to see – we will also use our extensive networks to turn those ambitions into reality for future generations of children and young people.
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