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A remarkable response

Although it has already been said many times and in many ways, I feel it is important for me to once again acknowledge the remarkable response that we have witnessed right across the public sector and beyond since last year; a response requiring the system to rise to the challenges presented by the unfamiliar phenomenon of widespread infection and illness that has blighted many of our communities, and the long and enduring lockdowns.

We have all spent nearly 18 months trying to make sense of strange and sometime frightening circumstances and the anxiety that comes from loss. Not only life but also freedom, contact, stability, and security. This has been a once in a lifetime, seismic experience that has brought profound shifts to our patterns of work, school and home-life.

Over the course of the pandemic, we have learned so much about ourselves, each other and what matters, and this has hasn’t stopped with the easing of restrictions; even now, there are new issues, guidance, circumstances to grapple with and overcome. The response since this all began has been more than impressive, it has, and continues to be, ground-breaking.

The speed of multiagency mobilisation, coordination and collaboration, united behind a collective goal, has been truly phenomenal. For years, I, like many others, have been promoting the benefits of integrated leadership that wraps around children and rejects ‘hand-offs’. Indeed, there is firm evidence that when agencies work in isolation of each other they can at times do more harm than good. For me, the benefits of whole system working, united by a common purpose, have been crystallised by our responses to the pandemic. The importance of embracing and nurturing skill mix and working with children, young people and families in a restorative way is well documented. The children’s integration work that has been promoted in many areas, underpinned by a culture of mutual respect and ‘team around’, has been a game changer. Delivery models of ‘team around’ have, in my experience, proved to be strong foundations that underpin and guide our ability to work effectively. Schools, the anchor institutions in communities, have risen to the enormous challenges with much more effectiveness when they have worked in a multi-agency spirit of cooperation and collaboration.

As we continue to readjust to life with few legal restrictions, there is much to reflect upon and analyse in more depth so that we better understand any enduring impact of this pandemic, not only on our children, families, and communities but also on our workforce. This will help to prepare us for what the future may hold.

Financial instability is without doubt causing considerable stress and hardship for many families. The number of children eligible for free school meals, due to reduced household income, has sharply increased and is continuing to rise. I expect this trend to continue as the national furlough scheme is tapered out. The disruption to children and young people’s learning opportunities and educational environment has been significant. The negative impact of the series of lockdowns and the invisible threat to life, on both children and adults’ emotional health and well-being, is yet to be fully understood. The impact of disruptions to dental care, speech and language therapy, physio for example, also needs to be better understood. As we go forward, we must consider how the system, working with families and communities, can mitigate against the inequalities compounded upon by the pandemic.

I look forward to finding time to carefully listen and reflect in a ‘multi-agency cooperative’ on what we have learnt over the past 18 months; any new ways of working that we want to continue to embrace in the future; share ideas and consider strategies for recovery. There have been some very important learning opportunities and messages for us to hear, captured through the voice of parents, carers and children, and indeed some examples of flexibility and adapted service styles that we would want to adopt going forward.

Finally, I believe we have a duty to our children and young people to avoid over-using negative narratives. Of course, honesty and sensitivity about the individual experiences and impact is important, but I feel that a spirit of hope, ambition and optimism should underpin our recovery and renewal dialogue with families in communities.


Tags assigned to this article:
CORONAVIRUS 85 COLLABORATION 10 COMMUNITIES 3

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