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Wed, 06 Jul 22 11:59

Interconnected Children’s Issues

It can be difficult for children’s issues to get the air time they fully deserve in the Health and Wellbeing Board.

These Boards have been around for three years now and most are firmly established.

They have work programmes designed to fulfil the role of overseeing the wellbeing of their population in every respect and this includes partners from across the local system including, patient representatives. Their location within the local authority governance system means that the democratic representation of the local population is also enshrined in the way that they work.

However, most Board agendas can easily be dominated by the important focus on health issues, particularly where there are hospital reconfigurations in view (as in the district where I work). The complex and time consuming processes involved in bringing about such changes can mean that a large proportion of the Health and Wellbeing Board agenda is often consumed.

The Board takes their responsibilities for the broad oversight of the whole population seriously. And they are finding ways of ensuring that children’s issues get properly considered.

The recent meeting of the Kirklees Health and Wellbeing Board, Chaired by Cllr Viv Kendrick following discussion with the Lead Member for Children, Cllr Erin Hill, focused on a range of inter related issues.

This included an overview of the way in which the Troubled Families Programme has developed in Kirklees (we call it Stronger Families) and the way in which this is informing the broader approach to early intervention and prevention; approval of a strategic approach to commissioning for children and young people aged 0-19, bringing together 0-5, 0-19 and child adolescent mental health commissioning.

We also discussed the implementation of the recently finalised commissioning strategy for victims of child sexual exploitation and a report on the first stages of the transformation plan for children and young people’s mental health following Future in Mind.

So quite an agenda, covering a wide range of issues! But the real value in the discussion came from recognition that the synergies between these pieces of work are critical to overall success. And that school nurses and health visitors have a vital role to play in shaping and delivering different approaches to supporting mental health issues in schools and in community organisations. Recognition at the important of helping families out of worklessness and the huge impact this has on the life chances of their children, along with raising the awareness of the impact of sexual exploitation in commissioning universal support for mental health issues are just a few examples of how these issues are all so interconnected.

This single discussion that took place on one day is just one of many similar discussions taking place in local authorities across the country. And exemplifies the sorts of strategic challenge we are all wrestling with. The breadth and complexity of our systems and shared issues means that we do have to ‘chunk things up’ in order to make the work manageable. But the constant challenge is to make sure that this does not lead to us thinking and working in silos. So it is really important that the Health and Wellbeing Board own the responsibility for looking across the breadth of the agenda and giving leadership to a coherent approach which joins together the important priorities to achieve improvement where it is needed.

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