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PAPER 12

EDUCATION AND SKILLS AUTHORITY: DIRECTOR OF CHILDREN’S

SERVICES

Purpose

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

the ESA.

Background

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

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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

are:

· 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

authority.

9. The Director of Children's Services provides the professional focus for

children’s services and has three key roles:

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· 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).

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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

effectively.

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

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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

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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

child;

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.

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· 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.

Proposed Legislation

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.

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RPA Division

28th November 2006