Getting It Right For Every… Journey

20 July 2018

Topic: Child protection, Voices of young people
Author: Jillian Ingram

Jillian Ingram ponders how getting a train from A to B might just offer clues to how to meet children’s needs.

A toddler looking through a train window

Since starting in my post with CELCIS, I've become for the first time a regular commuter by train.

One afternoon, I was sitting on board a very busy train, when it became apparent there was some delay. Every seat was filled, everyone was settled, and people had moved from expectantly looking out of windows to impatiently looking at their watches.

After a few minutes, an announcement began to be made:

"Ladies and gentlemen... we apologise for the delay..." So far, so usual.
"Unfortunately, our train is missing a vital piece of equipment..." OK, slightly more puzzling to hear.
" ...a driver!" ended the announcement, somewhat triumphantly! It was as though the speaker was delighted to announce a delay related to something other than leaves on the line!

Several more minutes passed without any progress, until we were then advised that a passenger had come forward and would be driving our train to another station, where our driver would meet us.

I was astonished by this. However, looking around at my fellow travellers I could see that everyone was happy that we would now be on our way. There were no complaints, no grumblings - just satisfied commuters.

Facing unmet needs

As we trundled through the countryside, I reflected on the situation. We had been faced with an unmet need – namely the need for someone to drive our train – in order to achieve our outcome – that is, to reach our destination by getting from A to B.

The unmet need was identified early by the rail company and there was clear sharing of this information with those affected - a large group of diverse passengers, each with different knowledge, skills, training and qualifications – quite the potential multi-agency workforce.

Amongst that group of diverse passengers, one of us had the right set of knowledge and skills to respond to the unmet need. This person was an employee of the rail company so there were safeguards in place regarding guiding policies and procedures to enable this solution to proceed.

This meant that the right person could provide the right help at the right time, therefore preventing the situation from deteriorating.

The unmet need was met, our shared outcome was achieved and we reached our destination safely together.

And I thought: Isn't this what Getting it right for every child is all about?

The child protection journey

Fourteen years ago, when Protecting Children and Young People: Framework for Standards was published as part of the child protection reform programme, eight standards set out what each infant, child and young person in Scotland should expect from professionals and agencies to ensure that they are adequately protected and their needs met.

The first standard is that children get the right help at the right time.

Infants, children and young people in Scotland today benefit from a largely commonly held understanding that all adults can play a supportive and protective role in their lives.

Professionals across both children and adult services have increased their knowledge of child development significantly, equipping themselves with complex skills, and ways of working collectively to meet children's needs.

This professional network supports the family and community who are the first line of defence in identifying and meeting the needs of the child at their centre.

So infants, children and young people are now much more routinely surrounded by groups of people, within whose circle exists - collectively – to meet their needs.

We all have a role to play

This demands that each of us recognises what we can contribute, what others can contribute, and how we can share information and work together to take timely and effective action to protect children.

It is also much more readily accepted now that children are active participants in their own lives and that listening to, and respecting, their perspective is vital.

It is often commented that we work in increasingly complex policy and legislative landscapes, with onerous bureaucracy, severe financial cuts, increasing pressure on public services and daunting expectations from the public to keep all children safe. This is all true.

But we also now all work within one national children's policy framework – Getting it right for every child.

This policy framework, the implementation of which has spanned the time period between the original Child Protection Reform Programme and the current Child Protection Improvement Programme absolutely provides us with the framework required to realise the vision of providing better support and protection to all of Scotland's infants, children and young people.

Getting it right for every child's "five questions" help keep us all focused on how to identify and respond to unmet need, and how to recognise our own role in this:

• What is getting in the way of this child or young person's well-being?
• Do I have all the information I need to help this child or young person?
• What can I do now to help this child or young person?
• What can my agency do to help this child or young person?
• What additional help, if any, may be needed from others?

To keep all our journeys running as well as possible, we need to ensure that where there is unmet need, this can be effectively addressed and this is no more fundamental than in Getting it right for every child.

Importantly, we need to continuously ask ourselves: What can I do now to help this child or young person?
Whether we are a parent, neighbour, friend, volunteer or professional – this question still means something to all of us. It holds us all to account for the role we play in promoting, supporting and safeguarding children's wellbeing. We must demonstrate this accountability, and leadership, to show our work is effective in protecting infants, children and young people. We need to be the right people there at the right time.

The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author/s and may not represent the views or opinions of CELCIS or our funders.

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