On October 11th, I wrote an article on Service Synergy – a series of articles on public service integration. This is Part 2, which I’ll call ‘Living Within Our Means’. Although timely with the recent announcement around the comprehensive spending review, there are two other factors which led to my decision to write this article today. These views are my own (see the boring disclaimer on my blog).
I had the pleasure yesterday, to participate in a webinar with colleagues from Argentina. The focus was on building a sound education for every child and young person. This, we all agreed, had to start in the early years and build momentum throughout the learner’s journey. Although I spoke (largely) about Curriculum for Excellence, there was an underlying theme throughout the session, the assurance that we deliver a basic education, a minimum standard before we think about added value. Indeed from my experience, ensuring a consistent education for all those children and young people for whom one is responsible is by no means an easy task. The approach is easy, the outcome can differ radically.
This brings me to my second reason for writing today. Having been plugged into the conversation around a minimum acceptable standard (worthy of an article in its own right), I had a brief but insightful conversation last night on Twitter with Karen (from Dundee) which made me realise that it is extremely difficult to provide a consistent, basic or otherwise, education when there are external factors influencing young people. These drivers, home circumstances, things that happen within the community and the proverbial baggage which is brought into schools is immense.
Reflect for one moment on the last time that you arrived into work having had a bad night’s sleep or had a personal issue which pre-occupied you.
No one is immune, as adults we learn (usually) to control this, but for someone who has not yet developed an emotional intelligence this can have a strong and adverse impact on their ability to integrate with their peers and learn as effectively as they could do. My point is this; if we are to drive self-esteem, self-belief and self-determination in our children and young people, developing a so called ‘responsible confidence’, education cannot go it alone. Other services, The Police, Health, Youth Work, Social Services, Housing, Community Learning and Development all have a role to play. The difficulty lies in our ability to control and coordinate the resources effectively.
With pressing budget cuts across all public services, how can we live within our means but still get value for money?
If I had the answer to that question, I’d be capitalising on my own creativity and I’d be far wealthier than I am. I do believe that the answer sits within Curriculum for Excellence and the broader policies that sit alongside. Getting It Right For Every Child, More Choices More Chances and such like are all catalysts for change. Without addressing the cultural, structural and process issues we will not get value for money.
There must be a role model for sustainability offering extended and integrated services for children, young people and adults.
Personally, I would like to see more funding devolved around schools, where they can act as a hub for the community as a unit supporting lifelong learning. Imagine a world where every school had it’s own Social Worker, Police Officer, Psychologist and Health Care Professional acting on behalf of the children and young people and the wider the community for which it serves. This integrated approach would allow firm and more substantive relationships with families, the rapport conducive to monitoring welfare and outcomes for each individual.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t live in cloud cuckoo land. This comes with a cost attached and it certainly isn’t living within our means. Current governance within local authorities and other public bodies is too complex and is in need of an urgent review. There is so much red tape surrounding various portfolios that I sometime want to climb onto a pedestal and shout ‘let’s just get on with it!’ And of course, there IS the budget thing.
That doesn’t mean however, that we sit back and do nothing. I’m going to explore this concept in more detail through the next three articles that I write; Enabling and Empowering People, Delivering Outcomes and Portfolio Parity.
I know that this is an issue which produces strong emotion and where people often have robust and opposing views. If you feel strongly about the approach that we take to integrated services, I’d urge you to comment on this post and share this article amongst your networks. From within our group of expertise and experience, I expect a solution can be found. Not an ideal, but more likely a compromise.