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Can I level up with you!?

Blackburn with Darwen, set within the heart of Pennine Lancashire, has high levels of structural inequality that impact on the communities that we serve. The borough and surrounding areas have also been in the eye of the Covid storm with persistently high levels of infection and restrictions. Despite this we have managed as a Council, with our partners and communities, to work more closely together than ever before and see the urgency in redressing the unequal impact of the pandemic on our children, young people and families.

Working with our communities and the assets within them, namely people, has allowed us to continue to take steps along a path where pride in place keeps us heading in the right direction. This pride enhanced by placed based services designed, delivered and locally accountable ensures that we do the best we can with the resources that are available to us.

There is an acknowledgement that “something needs to be done” by central and local government about the escalating costs in children’s social care. As Josh MacAlister’s Case for Change in June 2021 identified - improving outcomes for children is not something that government, local authorities or partners and our communities can achieve in isolation.

For change to have impact and to be sustained there needs to be a fair and consistent approach to funding children and families, alongside the services that we provide to them. So if I am levelling with politicians in central government and policy makers, there also needs to be an appreciation that if we are truly going to support all of our children to recover from the disruption to their lives over the last two years there has to be an appreciation of the unequal impact of the pandemic.

The excellent Child of the North Report by the Northern Science Alliance and N8 Research sets out that children in the north of England spent more time in lockdown than those elsewhere – which meant their education, and very often their mental health, suffered. Their parents were also more isolated. Children in the north of England have a 27% chance of living in poverty compared with 20% in the rest of England. The report also highlights that these children have a 58% chance of living in a local authority with below average levels of low income families compared to 19% in the rest of England.

We know that the Covid-19 pandemic has made an unequal situation worse. To address the north-south productivity gap and divide in the lived experience of our children we must tackle the stark inequalities and put in place a child-first place-based recovery plan that enables the children of the North to fulfil their potential.

Applying the principles of placed based services - designed, delivered and accountable to the people from the local communities that make up the wonderful area in Lancashire and the North that we live in - will be key to keeping our country’s recovery on the right track. We owe our children nothing less.

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