6. Putting quality at the heart of service delivery
Services based on what works in supporting children and families
There is a wide range of services in place for children and families and a huge number of very skilled and committed people in the children's services workforce. In order to get the best from services and the workforce, they need to operate with a strong understanding of what works in supporting positive outcomes for children.
We have excellent practice in many sectors and in many locations across Scotland. However, we need to be more systematic in identifying and disseminating best practice.
We need to capture what the evidence tells us about the nature of effective practice, learn from innovative approaches in Scotland and elsewhere and develop a culture of learning within the workforce so that they can apply the evolving knowledge base for the benefit of children and families.
A particular focus will be developing the evidence base on information, advice and programmes to develop parenting capacity. A further priority will be on building the evidence base around what works in community learning and development to support positive outcomes in early years.
Understanding the evidence is not enough. Some of the biggest mistakes are made in attempting to adapt proven programmes to local needs and unwittingly diluting those elements that are most effective. A strong emphasis on adhering to the programme, training and compliance needs to be maintained throughout the delivery chain.
Developing a highly-skilled workforce
A theme that came through in the work of all 4 task groups was the importance of the skills base of the workforce. There is a significant evidence base that supports the link between qualifications and outcomes, but equally our research with parents and children highlighted the central importance of engagement and the attitude of those they deal with in terms of their perception of the quality of services.
There are many excellent examples of cross-sector working within initial education, of joint working across higher and further education, and of partnership between educational institutions and employers. However, it remains the case that there are different silos of training for professional groups.
The importance of partnership in cross-sector working has been identified in the workforce response to Better Health, Better Care which has been developed to identify the challenges to be faced over the next 10-20 years in delivering a Healthier Scotland. The 5 core challenges are:
- tackling health inequalities;
- shifting the balance of care;
- ensuring a quality workforce;
- delivering best value across the workforce; and
- moving towards an integrated workforce.
These challenges interlink with this framework strengthening the key messages in the new, cross-sectoral focus and vision for early years.
We know there are a plethora of Continuing Professional Development ( CPD) opportunities available across the workforce, but that some people receive more opportunities to develop their skills than others. There are sectors where access to training can be very limited, such as childminders, playworkers, parent committees and voluntary groups.
There is an opportunity to create a much more coherent approach to developing the skills of the workforce, spanning initial education and CPD. This would flow, in part, from the Common Values Statement and the actions above to develop a much more systematic approach to capturing evidence of what works in children's services, and be based around a conceptualisation of the children's services workforce of the future.
Some specific and crucial skills highlighted by the task groups as a priority for inclusion in initial training and CPD across the workforce included: skills for developing and assessing early communication; literacy and numeracy; strategies for building the capacity of children and parents; and skills in community capacity building.
As we move forward in implementing Getting it Right for Every Child, there will be an increasing emphasis on skills which equip people to act as lead professionals and to provide or arrange additional support where a need is identified. These are important skills which should be a priority in CPD going forward.
There will be a need for innovation in roles and skills at a local as well as national level. Local partners should create an environment that supports and encourages innovation, and which gives backing to staff who find new ways to give greater emphasis to engaging families, developing prevention and early intervention and building community and family capacity. Most of all, staff must be clear that delivering for children and families across a range of outcomes is the day job for everyone.
There is a clear role for local early years and family support partnerships in rationalising and prioritising CPD opportunities to focus on those areas that make the greatest contribution to national and local priorities in early years.
East Ayrshire Council
The majority of children aged 0-3 years who attend the 5 nursery and family centres in East Ayrshire have been referred from Social Work Services, Health or Psychological Services.
Addiction, parenting, mental health and child protection are issues that affect the children and families who are supported through these services.
Family Care Workers will support families with children up to 8 years of age. Referrals primarily come from Social Work Services and the Health Service and focus mainly on parenting and behavioural issues and mental health issues for parents/carers. Family Care Workers will work with both children and their parents/carers often within their own home. They will also support parents/carers in group situations in the centres. They provide one aspect of an integrated approach to supporting families with a focus on prompt and early intervention.