2.3 Partnership and safeguarding
The Green Paper Every Child Matters (ECM) (Chief Secretary to the Treasury, 2003) built on this thinking and analysis, identifying the need for agencies to cooperate and work together in order to improve children’s well-being. It identified five outcomes that were seen to be most important to children and young people:
- be healthy
- stay safe
- enjoy and achieve
- make a positive contribution
- achieve economic well-being.
Every Child Matters informed the Children Act of 2004 which led to the reform of children and young people’s services in England, with an emphasis on promoting cooperation between agencies in order to improve outcomes for children and young people (if you are interested in reading more about these policy developments, see thewebsite). A significant event in the lead-up to ECM and the Children Act, and one which was highly influential in changes in practice that followed from this, was the death of Victoria Climbié and Lord Laming’s subsequent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding it.
As Percy-Smith observes:
The focus on partnership working is not surprising given the long list of high profile failures to adequately ‘join-up’ policy and practice.
Victoria Climbié died on 25 February 2000, ‘the victim of almost unimaginable cruelty’ (DoH, 2003, p. 1). Her aunt and her aunt’s boyfriend were convicted of her murder a year later. The inquiry that followed found a catalogue of systemic failures, poor professional practice, and poor leadership and management at a senior level, including a ‘dreadful state of communications’ within and between agencies (DoH, 2003, p. 9), failures of record keeping and information sharing, lack of clear protocols between agencies, a failure to follow procedures, and confusions about responsibilities. It also highlighted poor relationships between staff from different agencies, a failure to understand each other’s role, barriers to communication created by the stereotypes different agencies had of each other, and agencies working to different agendas.
Lord Laming identified a need for fundamental change in the way that services for children and young people were delivered. Every Child Matters took up and developed this agenda – and the ‘5 ECM outcomes’ became a strong driving force in practice with young people in England.
Youth Matters (DfES, 2005) continued the ECM agenda, focusing particularly on the need to develop a coherent system of support for young people. Again, it highlighted the need for close working and collaboration across different agencies working with young people, including public sector, voluntary and community sector, and private, organisations. It placed a particular emphasis on supporting the needs of young people who were most at risk and who had the most complex needs, through the development of integrated youth support services and the role of the ‘lead professional’.