Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)|
26 MARCH 2008
Q60 Chairman: Margaret, what is your
take on all this?
Margaret Dillon: To echo some
of what Anne and Mary have said, what is going to be most helpful
is recognising that integrated services, rather than services
being delivered in silos as they have been, will potentially be
more supportive to families. A number of agencies are picking
up different issues at different times, without ever taking an
holistic picture of the needs of children and their families and
developing an integrated response. I also think that within local
authorities there has been a tendency to work in silos and to
think, "I am working with a looked-after children cohort,"
or, "I am working with children and risk and therefore in
need of child protection services," but then there is a cohort
of children you never quite get to who require early intervention
services. They are always lower priority. The whole question of
thresholds then comes in and the point at which a child and their
family become in need of a service under section 17 of the 1989
Act. The whole threshold debate becomes quite problematic within
local authorities in terms of what Anne was saying about where
you then choose to allocate resources. The high-cost services
tend to be services for looked-after children and there is always
a challenge to front-end the early intervention range of family
Q61 Chairman: Your organisation has
a particular interest and focus. I recently met some of your people
and was interested to be educated in the specialism and focus
of NCH. You have this knowledge of parenting and families and
a long history in the field. How do you break out? Do you look
to children's trusts to have a more sensible attitude? If you
looked at an average authority, roughly how many children would
be in each category? Does anyone know?
Margaret Dillon: I am sure that
Anne knows the figures for Calderdale. Very good authorities that
have done a detailed analysis know because they ought to be in
a position to identify needs within their local authority boundaries.
They would have a percentage of children who are at the very pinnacle
of need, then middle priority, then lower priority, and then a
whole range of services that are universally accessed. As needs
become more problematic and require different sorts of services,
you get targeted services.
Q62 Chairman: Anne, can you give
us a figure? How many of these children are the ones who give
us the greatest concern and how big is the next band? Is it 1%
followed by 5%?
Anne Scarborough: I cannot give
you a figure, but let me give you an example. We have tiers 1
to 4 of provision. Tier 1 is universal provision, where most children
and families sit. Tier 2 is preventive services, where you are
a bit concerned about things. Tier 3 is intervention and targeted
support, rather like support for children who have special educational
needs, for example. Tier 4 is acute servicesagain, that
comprise children with special educational needs and looked-after
children. Most children are in tiers 1 and 2. Tiers 3 and 4 are
the tiers where you are getting to the most acute. The skill is
to have pathways through the tiers, because what happens when
you build blocks like that is that people get stuck in each block.
You need to build pathways, which is what we have started to do
in Calderdale. Our experience in Calderdale is not unique to local
authorities. Things get stuck in initial assessment. If somebody
makes a referral to care services, sometimes there are not enough
people to deal with it at that tier. Initial assessment sometimes
takes a long time to do, or it might not be done asI hesitate
to say accurately, but it might not be done as holistically, which
is what Margaret alluded to, as one would like. The key is getting
the assessment right and then getting the pathways right. Let
us say there is a child and a family who are at tier 1, for example.
Families go through crises at different timeswe all come
from families and we all know that that happens. There are occasions
when a family at tier 1, accessing universal services, has a bit
of a blip and need to access something at tier 2 or tier 3. Children
go up and down those tiers for different things. A child can be
doing perfectly well in school in universal provision, but the
family is in crisis and therefore needs tier 3 and 4 provision.
It is a very complex matter. You have to look at the individual
family and the individual child. You have to take a needs-based
approach, with very good holistic assessment, with the team around
the child, so that you are looking at their education, health
and welfare. Quite often, I get phone calls from schools, for
example, to say, "This child in this family is not coming
to school. The other children are, but one child isn't. What's
happening there?" An interventionist, assessment approach
and pathways are very important, so that you do not get stuck
in one bitbecause you are in this bit, you cannot go into
that bit and access a service, which Margaret alluded to. Figures
are very difficult to getI cannot remember the figures
in Calderdale and I have not brought them with mebut it
is the pathways through that are important. The key is getting
prevention, intervention and support at the time when the family
or the child needs it, as Margaret said. Sometimes it is a case
of, "Oh, that's not the threshold to go into this bit."
Q63 Chairman: But, Jane, does that
not depend on the teams working as teams? Everything I have read
so far shows there are gaps all round the place.
Professor Tunstill: Yes, there
is a lot of evidence in the literature over years and years that
the culture and practices in individual organisations have the
most impact on how many children end up in care or whatever. Yes,
you are absolutely right to focus on the team. Could I just deliver
a caveat, or health warning, which is that I have not been bribed
by NCH. It is coincidental that I am doing a piece of evaluation
for NCH on something that I think is relevant, which is a very
deliberate project that it has set up in four of its children's
centres to do exactly what my colleagues have been talking about,
which is to facilitate self-access, and sometimes facilitated
accessa bit more proactive outreach workinto the
universal services of the children's centre, with the proviso
that more targeted and purposive support can be delivered within
the centre, but without treating families who happen at that point
in time to be manifesting more complex needs as in some way ghetto-ised,
with the attitude of "Oh, hello; they are the funny old bunch
from whatever bit of the estate." Certainly in the centre
that I was in a couple of weeks ago, which is run by NCH, they
go to great lengths to stop talking, in a sense, about those tiers,
to provide a very attractive universal service that large numbers
of the local parents use, and very actively to work to engage
some of those who, for a variety of very rational reasons, may
be reluctant to appear in children's centres. That is the great
deficit of the many exciting initiatives such as children's centres
and, to an extent, extended schools: they do not pay enough attention
to the wariness of parents and the need to bolt on some purposive
outreach, so that they can come in and be encouraged to access
the universal services, even if, at the same time, they are having
one-to-one counselling. Do you want a little example from a bloke
I met who is using the centre?
Chairman: We love that sort of thing.
Professor Tunstill: Okay. He was
living with his partner who had various depressive problems. They
had their ups and downs and eventually his partner left him, unusuallyit
is more unusual for women to leave men with the children; she
left the family home and left him with the children. Before she
left they had used the odd group in the local children's centre,
but the children's centre, having clocked this, went to great
lengths to engage him and encourage him to come inremember
that he is a manto use some of the more purposive work
that they had got going: a counsellor and some small groups talking
about parenting. He accessed all of that, but without feeling
that he was some sort of two-headed monster. He felt a lot better,
then dropped back, if you like, from that level of higher support,
but still goes in and out of the children's centre, accessing
the universal services. He does not know about thresholds. Miraculously
he has been prevented from that, whether you call it the terrible
tyranny of the tier, or whatever. He just knows that in this local
area he has been helped to address the complex problems that at
various stages he has hadas we all haveand is now
back in what is a very classy children's centre. But children's
centres need to do something dramatic about opening of access,
whether it is about age or complexity of need, if they are really
to realise the ambition of Every Child Matters. I should like
to come back at some point and haveI will not say a rant,
because I am sure that is not Select Committee languagea
little chat about how I think family centres should not be completely
overlooked in contributing to that agenda. This is not a free
advert for my recently published book, but family centres
Q64 Chairman: Would you tell us the
name of the book? Hansard cannot see you holding it up.
Professor Tunstill: Now that you
have asked me, I have deliberately brought it, as you can see,
because this is a tribute to Government. Government and indeed
everybody else underestimate the extent of the knowledge that
we, financed by the British Government, have. We do not need to
turn endlessly across the Atlantic, though that is not to say
that there are not helpful things over there. I have brought the
two most recent overviews. I am sure that you have seen one of
them. I shall just give an overview, because it is a little bit
of an advert for the British Government. This is not party-political:
one of the books I have brought was commissioned under the Tories,
and one is more recent. [Interruption.] That is true, but
it could have been disseminated more widely; there is a foreword
by Margaret Hodge. One is about the overview of a range of very
complex and interesting studies on how best to support a range
of families, and one is about what is, and is not, working well
in the Children Act 1989. My book is among some studies that were
commissioned. The overview, Supporting Parents: Messages from
Research, was written by David Quinton, Department for Education
and Skills and Department of Health, in 2005. An earlier overview
called The Children Act Now: Messages from Research was
published in 2001. They focus on what the studies tell us. My
study, which was overviewed, was a national study of 520 family
centres. It looked specifically at the role of the centres in
co-ordinating and facilitating networks for families. It is called
Improving Children's Service Networks: Lessons from
Family Centres by me, Jane Aldgate and Marilyn Hughes. It
was published by Jessica Kingsley in 2007. Along with other studies,
it underlines the role that family centres can play in cases such
as the one that I have just outlined. At an episodic point in
time, delivering a higher level of support and encouragement will
enable families to come back into the virtuous, universal framework
of children's centres' services.
Chairman: You have probably put Hansard
Professor Tunstill: I can e-mail
Chairman: Jane, do not worry, we have
got there. I am looking at Hansard reporters and they are
Professor Tunstill: I can even
leave them with you.
Chairman: That is absolutely fine. When
you refer to this one, it is difficult for the reporters. I describe
myself as the warm-up person. We have warmed you up and you are
in good mode. David, you are going to start here. Hang on, let
Annette intervene very quickly.
Q65 Annette Brooke: Although I have
visited both children's centres and family centres, I have not
got a clear picture of how they work together. I have not got
a mind map of family centres and children's centres. Do they interact?
Professor Tunstill: I do not want
to abuse my share of the air time.
Chairman: I will punish you later.
Professor Tunstill: Yes, unless
careful thought is given to it, they do not interact, but they
could. I am not suggesting a parallel ghetto-ised service. This
is relevant to a conversation that Mary and I were having earlier
about the role of the voluntary sector in delivering services.
In the new world, the voluntary sector agencies are sometimes
particularly good at setting up and running family centres. One
of the virtues of family centresthen I really will shut
up about themis that they are able to work with a much
larger age range. Children's centres are constrained with the
under-four proviso at the moment. Family centres can deliver a
very broad range of functions, as indeed they do. Just to get
one more plea in, they can also help children who feel embarrassed
that the extended school is being seen as the repository of all
of their parents' woes. Caution needs to be paid to assuming immediately
that the extended school is the right place to take problems in
the family. For some children, going to school is the asylum in
their day. Having Mum and Dad going in and screwing that one up
is not what they would choose. You, Anne, in Calderdale will have
examples of family centres working collaboratively alongside children's
centres, but it is not a given. It is not required in the children's
centre guidance, and it could be.
Q66 Mr Chaytor: May I ask Margaret,
and perhaps Anne also, about the whole question of family support
services and whether there is a common understanding of what family
support is? In your opening statements, you have all used the
words "support" and "early intervention" in
a fairly free way, but what do they really mean? Is there an agreed
definition that each of the major organisations and local authorities
Margaret Dillon: Yes, I would
say that there is shared understanding. How it is defined is dependent
on particular local authorities. In my agency, where we work with
more than 82% of local authorities across the UK, we deliver family
support provision that is tailored to suit the needs of communities
within those local authorities, so the shape of the services will
look different according to the needs of children and families
within local communities. Obviously, you are delivering a different
shape of services within a very rural environment from that required
for a very urban environment. Invariably, however, the services
will consist of a range of direct support work with children,
either one to one or in small groups. So we run children's groups
from our family centres or within our family support services.
We run parenting support. We will provide counselling and anger
management, and we teach behavioural skills. We will offer budgeting
planning and household planning. A range of packages is open to
families, once you have undertaken the assessment that Anne was
talking about. You then identify the family's particular needs
and where they need help and support. Then they can access those
services over a time-limited period. So there is a continuum of
provision that is flexibly delivered to meet the needs of the
child and the family.
Q67 Mr Chaytor: Anne, does that match
with what you do in Calderdale and how does your activity in Calderdale
match with, say, Kirklees or Bradford, your neighbours?
Chairman: You will know that David was
at one time a councillor in Calderdale.
Anne Scarborough: In Bradford?
Chairman: No, in Calderdale.
Anne Scarborough: I apologise.
Chairman: Just for your information.
Anne Scarborough: I worked in
Bradford as well. It is a very complex sector; it is not straightforward.
I am sorry to say that. What Margaret said is absolutely right;
I do not think that there is really a clear definition of family
support. The services that I lead and manage are very varied and
very wide, ranging from children's centres to extended services
in schools to inclusion services, which is all your special education
needs services, and young people's services or youth services.
All those services provide some type of family support. So, the
youth service, for instance, provides positive activities for
young people, which supports families by providing somewhere for
children to go and things for them to do, from the age of 13 onwards.
Children's centres obviously serve a narrower age band, for children
up to the age of five, and obviously schools are for children
aged from five to 16, or five to 19. So, within that framework
are universal family support services, including a family information
service that we have just set up. In fact, the first day that
we set it up, the first phone call we received was from a parent
asking how old a child has to be before they can go and have their
navel pierced on their own. I cannot remember what the answer
Chairman: I am sure it is the same as
other things. It must be 16; it should be 18.
Anne Scarborough: I think that
it is probably 18.
Chairman: Thank God for that.
Anne Scarborough: So we have services
ranging from a family information service, which is a universal
service, right through to a family support service. Going back
to what Margaret said, that family support service supports families
around an assessment of need and we will go in and work with those
families. Along that range of services are services such as the
behaviour support service, whose staff are all trained in Webster-Stratton
parenting support, which is a particular form of support that
can be given to parents, through to something that is called social
emotional aspects of learning, which children now learn in schools
as part of a behavioural and emotional support programme. There
are also extended schools, where we have parent transition programmes,
for the transition from primary to secondary school, which is
always a very scary time. So there is a range of services. In
Calderdale, we have just written our parenting support strategy
and we engaged Rathbones to undertake mapping and auditing for
us, because everybody was telling us that they were providing
parenting support and so we needed to find out what it was. We
found through the mapping exercise that a lot of the support is
around intervention at the more acute end, tiers 3 and 4. We do
not have enough support at tiers 1 and 2, not necessarily to stop
people going into acute, but to get hold of the problem before
it becomes acute. That is the key. When we think about it, that
is the key to medical matters or whatever. We have parent link
workers at our children centres. They are front-line workers who
knock on doors in SureStart areas. If they have not seen a family
for a while or have located a family who have not been in touch
with the children centre, they will contact them. That is crucial
to the sustainability and continuity of some families because
they know the person.
Q68 Chairman: Who is this person?
Anne Scarborough: A parent link
worker. They are first-line workers. They are not official. They
do not have a social worker background, so the role is not hard-edged.
They encourage parents to use the facilities within the children's
centres. Because we can now drill down statistically to houses
and streets, we have analysed through the foundation stage profile
those children who did not succeed in communication, personal,
social and emotional aspects. We shall look at those families
to see if other children might need ongoing support, so we can
target interventions. We are not targeting at the acute end, but
at tiers 1 and 2the universal and preventive end. Family
support is complex. It is about supporting children. We provide
a young people's service and support children so that they are
safe and healthy within their families and their communities.
Community support is crucial to families. A lot of them who are
excluded from their communities do not have that support.
Q69 Mr Chaytor: May I ask Mary a
question, and then switch to Jane? Mary wanted to say something
earlier. She was nodding vigorously in dissent.
Mary MacLeod: Yes, I was. It is
very difficult to define family support. People mean different
things by it. That is a difficulty in planning services. We did
some mapping about five years ago of family support throughout
England and Wales. It was clear that the two areas critical to
helping families were thought by local authorities to be outside
family support: supporting adult couple relationships and interventions
with the whole family, which were much less often considered to
be part of family support. However, most of the time that is spent
on family problems is devoted to entrenched relationship difficulties.
We think that it is really important to have couple relationship
support, and want family skills that are generally described as
family therapy to be part of the range of provisions to come under
family support. One of the big difficulties is that practitioners
are trained in silos. They are trained in work with children or
parenting, but actually we want practitioners with a real toolkit
to be the one person who can run a family group conference, work
with a couple, work with a child and manage practical problems.
It is really difficult to have interventions in the problems of
families and children that will make a difference.
Professor Tunstill: Two things,
one specific thing that I would add to the list of activities
that, as the Audit Commission said, would provide support to parents
to help them bring up their children, is respite care. We are
looking at the looked-after system and I do not think that one
should assume that a child being looked after in a period of respite
foster care is a badge of failure. That can often be an important
service within the family support spectrum. It can relieve stress
in the short term and the child can then go home. Picking up on
the important work force issues that Mary raised, we lack proper
data about the family support work force. About a year ago, I
was commissioned by the Children's Workforce Development Council,
along with June Thoburn, to do a scoping study of the family support
work force. The summary is on its website, but I am not sure whether
the whole report has been published. It is astounding how little
we know about the qualifications and identities of the myriad
workers in any one authority or agency who are delivering family
support. One of our recommendations was to add a specific category
of family support worker to the minimum data set. Currently, the
Government do not collect data on that. The report is called Scoping
the Family Support Workforce and should be attributed to the
CWDC. It is a study of the complexity of family support and outlines
how many professionals, as well as members of staff who are not
professionals, contribute to the task of supporting families.
Q70 Mr Chaytor: You have anticipated
my next question. I will pursue that point for a moment. On the
concept of family support workers, what basic training and qualifications
would you expect a family support worker, as distinct from a social
worker, to have?
Professor Tunstill: Just to be
bloody-minded, it is difficult to say that a family support worker
is distinct from a social worker. What I was trying to get across
was that part of the role of lots of workers might be family support.
Part of a social worker's role will be family support. In my view,
any good social worker will be doing family support. Trust me,
I have taught social workers for years and years and most of them
go into social work to deliver something closer to family support
than child removal. Family support is part of the social work
task, but at the same time it could be part of the role of a speech
therapist, a psychotherapist, a mental health worker, a health
visitor, an outreach worker, an early-years worker or anybody
who is working in what is called "the team around the family",
although I cannot say that I am mad about that phrase. Anyone
working in a profession that families are likely to encounter,
should have part of their qualification in family support or there
could be a case for a family support worker qualification. However,
whatever decision is taken must not be seen to rubbish all of
the work that is going on or to throw out the baby with the bath
water. That is why I support the minimum data set that would build
the information in a bottom-up fashion. You are absolutely right
about training and qualifications: we are at a very tricky stage
with a range of qualifications. I will be very sad if, in the
foreseeable future, social work becomes equated with working only
with families who are in tier 4. They must have the capacity to
do family support input. In many ways, social workers are the
most skilled outreach workers because they are trained to engage
with the most challenging families. Do not forget that a part
of what they do is family support.
Q71 Mr Chaytor: But as of now, there
is no distinct component to the training defined as family support.
Professor Tunstill: No, and this
discussion is really helpful. May I again put in a plea that family
support workers should not become just another silo or another
sexy new profession? I am sorry, I should not have started on
this issue. It would be sad if it was seen to undermine the contributions
made by many workers, including volunteers, who with the right
support can offer amazing levels of intense family support that
can contribute alongside the capacity of any paid member of the
Q72 Mr Chaytor: Margaret, I want
to pursue the matter of integrated services, the importance of
which you referred to earlier. Is there not an inevitable tension
between workers who are defined as family support workers or who
are in a family support role, and the social workers' interest
in safeguarding children? How, within an integrated service, can
that tension be resolved if there is one group of professionals
whose prime objective is to keep the family together, support
them and improve their capacity to rear their children, and someone
else, the social worker, whose prime concern is safeguarding the
child from abuse?
Margaret Dillon: In all our services,
we are explicit that safeguarding is everyone's responsibility,
whatever their job title happens to be. We push hard for people
not to assume that, as soon as there is a child protection issue,
it belongs somewhere else. They have as much responsibility to
identify and work with those issues as anyone, with additional
support if it is required. We are trying to avoid silo thinking
within our services, where people think, "I do not need to
worry about protection issues for children because I am only doing
family support." Actually, family support is all about safeguarding
children and ensuring that they are supported to fulfil their
potential and that they are kept safe and well. So, we must avoid
that kind of artificial distinction between child protection and
family support, as they are one and the same thing.
Mary MacLeod: That distinction
is strongly felt by families and children. That is why families
will often use services that are not labelled as local authority
ones, although they will work in the way that Margaret has described
and consider safeguarding as an important part of what they are
doing. The voluntary sector is seen very differently by families.
For example, there are evaluations of a service provided by the
Family Welfare Association, which is very much focused on families
on "the edge of care", as we call it. In the evaluations,
the parents are saying, "It was so good to have Janet; she
was more like a friend to me. She was not like a social worker.
She was not going to take my children away." We have to realise
that the social work profession and the term "social work"
are now associated in people's mind, particularly those who are
most nervous of losing their children, with the bogies who are
going to come and take them away. There is a problem in what to
call them. Yet, you hear from children in careI have read
the evidence that you heard last weekwho are saying, "We
want our social worker." Children are focused on the social
worker as being the person who should come to see them and do
stuff with them. Yet, for the family, the social worker might
be very scary. You are absolutely right that it is difficult to
manage that transition between caring and supporting, and controlling
and setting boundaries.
Chairman: We will come back to those
issues, but I must include all my colleagues and we have six sections
of question to ask you. You will return to some of these issues.
Q73 Mr Stuart: The Government are
fond of pilots and initiatives from the centre. Are they a fruitful
activity or are they taking away focus from universal, consistent
Anne Scarborough: I shall answer
that, as I have just spent a week putting together a bid for one
of your pilots. Pilots are fine in that they focus the mind. We
have just put forward a family pathfinder bid. If they are done
as part of the work that you are already doing, that is absolutely
fine; but if they are done just to chase funding, that is when
you can get into a mess. The mess comes when you realise that
the funding stops. That is one of the biggest issues that I would
like you to take away with you, that short-term funding in this
area of work has more negative than positive outcomes. Children's
centres are a prime example. The children's centre SureStart grant
is starting to be reduced. Of course, what you do when you set
out on these activities is that you employ a lot of people. For
a council, it has to continue employing those people or make them
redundant, so it has to build those costs in. The other aspect
is that, quite often, you have trained people. Calderdale is very
small, so when we train people we put a lot of effort into training
them. We have some excellent people. However, you will have noticed
from the size of my job that, because we are small, we have to
do a lot for our money, as it were. That means that sometimes
certain skills can be lost. You may receive a year's funding,
but it takes you a year to get something going; you do not see
a benefit from just a year. We are only just beginning to see
the benefits of children's centres, for instance.
Q74 Mr Stuart: So have there been
pilots that are funded for just a year?
Anne Scarborough: Some of the
funding that I inherited was just for a year.
Q75 Mr Stuart: Can you give us some
Anne Scarborough: Yes, I can.
Some of the Connexions funding, which came through for positive
activities and for keeping young people in employment and education,
was a year's funding. A year's funding is difficult to manage.
The pathfinder bid is for three years' funding and the application
has to show how that funding will be sustainable; sustainability
is the key really. It is not that the funding should carry on
so that you can do the same thing. Going back to what Mary was
saying, you need to maintain your level of skills, so that you
can be flexible in the support that you provide. Quite often,
what we need to look at is providing a new kind of service to
support families who are in need, or families who are at risk
of being in need.
Professor Tunstill: From the viewpoint
of the local authority, I absolutely understand all those issues.
Speaking as a researcher, I also think that it is very important
to be clear about what a pilot is and what it ought to be. A pilot
ought to be a scientific asking of a questionfor example,
"Is this an appropriate thing to do, and let's find out whether
it works?"before we commit ourselves to going on after
the pilot. I am sure that I am not the first person to have raised
the disquiet around the privatisation of social work practices
for looked-after children at the moment, which is being set up
as a pilot and backed by Professor Julian Le Grand, Alastair Pettigrew
and various other people. I know that there was an extended debate
in the House of LordsI do not know whether one is allowed
to talk about the House of Lords in Select Committeesand
all sorts of reservations were expressed, most articulately by
Baroness Meacher, about what a pilot is. Of course, it is a politicalwith
a small "p"decision. If you really want something
to work and to carry on, even if you suspect that it may not be
the best answer, you put loads of money into it in the short term,
disadvantage the other services that you are comparing it againstI
would say that the looked-after system in local authorities is
a good example of thatand throw loads of money at these
private practices. So there are some big questions about methodological
rigour, as well as the very important questions about viability
of robust service delivery and the implications for the work force.
Mary MacLeod: There are particular
problems with initiatives for the voluntary sector. At the Family
and Parenting Institute, we have been responsible for managing
two very large projects. One was the parenting fund, where central
Government quite rightly put money into the delivery of family
and parenting support locally, but distributed it through national
voluntary organisations. The second was a fund called the early
learning partnership project. Both of those projects have been
time limited. Particularly for very small voluntary organisations,
the churn involved even in two or three-year funding that will
then stop is considerable. You lose capacity, as people see the
end in sight and leave jobs, and you lose skills. It really is
very difficult to manage. The whole localism agenda is making
it quite difficult for small voluntary organisations, which have
a really good approach to supporting parents with learning disabilities.
Margaret might feel that it is easier for the larger ones, but
small organisations have to search around for money and their
position is terribly unstable. It would be a really great loss
to family support for such organisations to lose funding and go
out of business.
Q76 Chairman: Can you expand on the
new localism agenda?
Mary MacLeod: I mean where decisions
about commissioning are made locally. You cannot argue against
it on many levels. Anne, you know what your business is in Calderdale,
as do others in their locality. However, as you were also saying,
family circumstances are so incredibly diverse. There are various
niche areas in which voluntary sector organisations have built
up experience, but they are often national organisations and they
do not have the capacity to put in bids to 150 local authorities.
They may lose out to private sector organisations which have the
capacity to manage tendering processes. It is a question of whether
a different regime of tendering should be considered for some
of the national voluntary organisations.
Q77 Mr Stuart: There is the classic
question which is relevant to all sorts of services. Do we have
too much central prescription and initiative distorting local
effectiveness, or do we have patchy and inconsistent local services,
which could do with greater central direction and uniformity?
Mary MacLeod: I would say it is
a mixture of both. Again, to refer to the mapping exercise that
we did, we found that local services really wanted the benefit
of some organised thinking on parenting and family support. They
do not want to have to invent the wheel in every single local
authority, so there is a real place for central guidance and support,
especially for the pilots and demonstration projects that enable
you to build up the case for developing such services. However,
it can feel like instruction from on high. As with all such things,
it is a balance.
Q78 Mr Stuart: In terms of developing
new approaches, you talked about pilots. How good are we at analysing
which new models are bringing benefit and sharing best practice
with other areas?
Mary MacLeod: I think that we
are getting better.
Professor Tunstill: I am aware
that I am saying this in the context of a current tendering process
to set up a new organisation called the Centre for Excellence
in Children's Outcomes, which I understand will have a brief to
disseminate good practice. Like apple pie and motherhood, no one
can disagree with that, but I happen to think that we are doing
an awful lot of it already. Lots of organisations are doing a
very good jobI am thinking of Social Care Institute for
Excellence and the National Children's Bureau. The Government
should have given greater thought to the dissemination of this
huge amount of research, all of which is written up in terms of
implications for practice. You have a huge dissemination of good
practice going on in higher education institutions through a variety
of professional qualifying courses. I think that we are quite
good at providing examples of good practice, and the Government
have a good track record of requiring reports of instances of
good practice. I know that because I have to produce them. I do
not know whether you saw the summary of my safeguarding report
within the national evaluation of SureStart, but the emphasis
was on identifying real things happening and publicising it as
examples to other authorities? All I am cautioning against is
pretending that we are starting with an empty slate.
Chairman: No one was suggesting that.
Professor Tunstill: I think that
is the assumption of the centre.
Q79 Chairman: This Committee has
to look at a whole range of services. In our schools remit, for
example, we know that there are many good schools in this country,
but some schools are in dire circumstances, for all sorts of reasons,
and a lot of attention is paid to them through Ofsted and other
means. I have a feeling that you were being a little protectionist
Professor Tunstill: I was?
Chairman: Yes, let me tell you why I
thought that. Surely we need the best outcomes for children in
children's services. Whether that is supplied by the third sector,
the private sector or in-house in a local authority, surely the
outcome must be the main thing, rather than who delivers it.
Professor Tunstill: I agree entirely.
I am not talking about who delivers it. I sometimes think that
in England in particular, although also in Scotland and Wales,
there is an assumption that we do not have enough of an evidence
base, and that we, nationally, are not confident about the nature
of good practice. I was making a general point. I do not disagree
with anything that you have said. If I sounded defensive, it was
because I think we should be more proud of what we already commission
research on in this country and what we already know. Obviously
I come from a social care background, and I totally agree with
you that the only news for newspapers is the failure of a social
work decision, or a failing school. It is rare for huge amounts
of attention to be paid to the good-news stories because they
are simply not news. I do not disagree with that, but I want to
remind us how much we already do know and how much is routinely