EDUCATION AND SKILLS AUTHORITY: DIRECTOR OF CHILDREN’S
1. The purpose of this paper is to consider the implications of the
Ministerial announcement on 22 November 2005 that contained a
reference to the appointment of a Director of Children’s Services within
2. In November 2005 Angela Smith said she wanted to see “the
appointment of a Director of Children’s Services to co-ordinate the
Education Authority’s responsibilities for children.” Later in the same
statement the Minister noted the “inter-dependence of public service
provision”, and that “the appointment of a Director of Children’s
Services is a clear recognition of this.” This suggests that the Director
of Children’s Services should have a role in working with other
organisations outside the ESA that deliver services to children.
3. The concept of a Director of Children's Services comes from the GB
Children Act 2004 and it is a key part of the Every Child Matters
agenda . The rationale for the introduction of the arrangements in GB
comes from the shared policy agenda (Every Child Matters) to
maximise opportunities and minimise risks for all children and young
people by focusing services more effectively around their needs.
4. Before considering how to give effect to the Ministerial commitment to
establish a similar post in Northern Ireland, it may be useful to set out
some of the key points of the GB legislation.
Position in England
5. The basic premise of the arrangements in GB is that services need to
be organised around the child, young person and family rather than
professional disciplines. The Children Act 2004 establishes a duty on
local authorities as the “children’s services authority”, to establish a
Local Safeguarding Children Board for their area, and make
arrangements to promote co-operation between agencies in order to
improve children’s well-being, defined by reference to five outcomes
(see below). The latter is designed to maximise opportunities for
children, while the former is to address the issue of improving child
protection and minimising risks to children. A duty is also placed on key
partners to take part in those arrangements, and a new power to allow
pooling of resources in support of these arrangements is established.
6. The five outcomes that define children’s well being in this legislation
· Physical and mental health and emotional well-being;
· Protection from harm and neglect;
· Education, training and recreation;
· The contribution made by them to society; and
· Social and economic well-being.
7. These are similar to the outcomes that have now been adopted by
Ministers in the recently published Ten Year Strategy of children and
young people in Northern Ireland.
8. Section 18 of the Children Act places a duty on each local authority (or
“children’s services authority”) in England to appoint a Director of
Children’s Services to be responsible for, as a minimum, education and
children’s social services. This reflects the situation in England where
both education and social services fall within the remit of the local
9. The Director of Children's Services provides the professional focus for
children’s services and has three key roles:
· Professional responsibility and accountability for the authority’s
children’s services – i.e. the effectiveness, availability and value for
money of all the authority’s children’s services;
· Leadership to drive change – both within the authority to secure
and sustain the necessary changes to culture and practice, and
beyond it so that services improve outcomes for all and are
organised around children and young people; and
· Building effective partnerships - The Director of Children's
Services is required to build and lead robust partnership
arrangements to ensure public, private, voluntary and community
organisations work together to improve outcomes for children and
young people and align appropriate resources of all partner
agencies against agreed priorities.
10. Schools are seen as critical to ensuring every child has the opportunity
to fulfil their potential. Raising standards and inclusion go hand in hand
and are key contributors to improving children’s well being. Therefore
the Director of Children's Services is required to play an active role in
facilitating the engagement of schools with the wider children’s agenda.
11. High quality childcare is equally important in ensuring that children can
fulfil their potential and parents realise their aspirations, balancing work
and family life. The Director of Children's Services therefore also has a
key role in the strategic planning of sustainable childcare, and in coordinating
the work of key partners.
12. In discharging his/her role the Director of Children's Services is also
required to listen to and involve children in determining their needs,
and champion their interests both across functional boundaries within
the authority, and across local partnerships, and each child services
authority is required to publish a 3-year strategic Children and Young
People’s Plan (CYPP).
13. The legislation also makes provision for the designation of one of the
Members of the council as “lead member for children’s services”. In
the section applying to Wales, while most provisions mirror the English
situation, in addition to officer and member posts in the local authority
both the local Health Boards and the NHS Trusts in Wales are also
required to appoint lead officers/executive directors and lead Board
Members/ non-executive directors for children’s services. This should
provide a network of key decision makers within the main partner
organisations and ensure that children’s services are given equal
weight in each of these organisations, thus facilitating the development
of strong networks and partnerships.
NORTHERN IRELAND CONTEXT
14. The policy objective here, as in England and Wales, is to better coordinate
and integrate the full range of children’s services. However,
as Education and Social Services are (and will be) the responsibility of
two separate organisations here we cannot simply replicate the
arrangements in GB. We therefore need to examine other ways to
achieve a similar outcome without losing the benefits of some of the
existing arrangements in Northern Ireland that are working very
15. The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety
(DHSSPS) has responsibility for social services to children, and takes
the lead on child protection issues in Northern Ireland. The
effectiveness of the services provided by the Health and Personal
Social Services (HPSS) structures in Northern Ireland is viewed by GB
counterparts as particularly effective due to the integration of health
and social services, and the close working relationship between the
two sets of professionals. The Secretary of State, in his statement in
March 2006, acknowledged this important linkage and announced that
social services would remain integrated with the health structures.
Therefore, integrating children’s social services into the education
structures is not an option.
16. Child protection is a core responsibility of the HPSS with very effective
arrangements already in place. To further improve these arrangements
DHSSPS is currently developing proposals for the establishment of a
Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland, similar to those established
by local authorities in GB under the Children Act. A consultation paper
is due to issue soon. ESA will have an important role to play as a key
member of this Board, and it may be appropriate for the Director of
Children’s Services within ESA to be the ESA representative on that
Board, and ensure that ESA works with all its partners to meet all its
child protection responsibilities.
17. Child protection is everyone’s responsibility, although it is important
that there is one organisation that is clearly seen to be in the lead.
However, having a director within ESA nominated as responsible for
children’s services, including child protection will help raise the profile
of child protection within the organisation and send the message that it
is a matter that is given a high priority within ESA.
Proposed Role of ESA’s Director of Children’s Services
18. In addition to child protection responsibilities what role will ESA’s
Director of Children’s services have? Given that ESA’s remit is more
limited than a local authority in GB – i.e. it has no responsibility for
children’s social services – there remains the question of how the
appointment of a Director of Children’s Services within ESA might
achieve similar outcomes to the GB arrangements in terms of
improving the integration of services to children across the board?
19. The proposed approach is to look at how the integration of services
might be achieved through partnership arrangements and consider
how best to build on existing arrangements of co-operation to deliver
an even more integrated approach to service delivery for children and
young people. Both the ESA and the HSSA will appoint their own
Directors of Children's Services1, and the two would be required to
work closely to develop arrangements for the integration of services to
children, working with other partners such as the criminal justice
system, probation service, PSNI, and local councils.
20. The risk, however, is that this might be seen as just another
partnership in a very crowded field. With the introduction of community
planning the opportunity exists to rationalise the number of
partnerships and we should seize this opportunity by linking this
partnership arrangement into the community planning structures. It
would not be necessary to wait until community planning structures
have been fully developed by councils – this may take some time – but
the structures put in place by the ESA and the HSSA should be
compatible with community planning proposals. At present it is
proposed that each council should have a community planning
partnership populated by core partners (education being one) and
others. It is further proposed that there should be thematic subpartnerships,
and that these might be led by the relevant partner.
Councils could be specifically required to have a thematic subpartnership
in each area relating to services to children and young
people. That sub-partnership should be chaired by either the Director
of Children's Services of ESA or the HSSA or jointly by both. This
would allow ESA to play a prominent role in community planning, and
allow councils to engage positively with the education and youth sector
to ensure better outcomes for children and young people in their area.
21. The Director would therefore be responsible for:
· ensuring that services provided by ESA are well co-ordinated and
there are no internal conflicts between different divisions, or where
there are seek a resolution that represents the best outcome for the
1 It has been agreed that, given the current statutory responsibilities set out in the Children (NI) Order
1995 that the holder of this post in the HSSA will discharge the responsibilities of the Executive
Director of Social Work.
· ensuring that ESA works with key partners to maximise opportunities
for children and young people (through participation in the community
planning process) and minimise risks (through membership of the
Safeguarding Board as well as raising the profile of child protection
within ESA and with school and youth organisations); and
· actively engaging children and young people, their parents, carers and
teachers in the debate about how services to meet their needs are
developed and delivered.
This arrangement would be wholly compatible with the Children’s
strategy which proposes the development of the Northern Ireland
Network for Youth and the district Youth Network. These could be
useful mechanisms through which to engage children and young
people in this whole process.
22. Going down this route, however, will require a considerable amount of
work to define the services covered, the roles of individuals and
organisations, clarify lines of accountability, and consider other issues
such as pooling resources, developing common databases etc in line
with arrangements in GB.
23. In terms of implementing this, ESA and HSSA could be
required by their respective parent departments, through management
agreements, to appoint Directors of Children's Services, and for these
appointees to work together through the community planning structures
to integrate services to children. In this way the roles could evolve and
issues/problems be addressed in the same timeframe as the wider
community planning structures and processes are being developed.
DOE may wish to consider placing a requirement on councils, through
statutory regulations/guidelines on community planning, to have a subpartnership
focussing on children and young people in each area.
28th November 2006