How the Early Years Agenda is being led and championed
CPPs were asked to provide details on how the early years agenda is led and championed in their CPP, including an overview of the general approach being taken to the early years and the key issues and challenges being faced.
The returns from 2012/13 showed that early years and prevention were already priorities across Scotland. CPPs reported that work on prevention and early intervention were already underway and the Early Years Change Fund was seen as acting as a driver or focus for planning around these areas.
CPPs also reported on structures already in place and how these were being reviewed to ensure that planning for the Early Years Change Fund could build on and complement existing early years and early intervention programmes.
In 2013/14, returns showed how structures had been developed with evidence of strategic approaches, dedicated leadership and local champions, with the Early Years Change Fund enabling CPPs to target activities that improve outcomes for children and families.
The 2014/15 returns showed that in many CPPs these structures and approaches were being reviewed and developed to ensure that they continue to meet local needs.
Development and delivery
A number of key issues and areas of work emerged from the returns and these are summarised below along with some of the many examples provided.
Returns show a strong focus on early years within both Single Outcome Agreements ( SOA) and Community Plans. Returns indicate that the focus in SOAs has shifted from intervention to prevention, for example:
Moray: As set out in GIRFEC, the Early Years Framework, EYC and the SOA, a preventative and collaborative approach to deliver local outcomes is at the heart of community planning in Moray.
North Ayrshire: The North Ayrshire SOA 2013/17 contains the outcome that children's health and wellbeing is improved by breaking the cycle of poverty, inequality and poor outcomes.
Stirling: Early years has been identified as a prevention and intervention area arising from our SOA. As such, it is subject to a prevention action plan which has been developed in partnership based on evidence gathered during our Outcomes for Stirling process.
There is evidence that CPPs have firmly embedded the early years agenda within their Integrated Children's Services Plans ( ICSP) and within other local plans and strategies that relate to early years, children or learning. Early years, early intervention and prevention feature as priorities across all areas of the country.
Integration also emerged as an important feature, with CPPs reporting integration of various strategic plans. For example in East Ayrshire: A new integrated Children and Young People's Service Plan is being developed and this plan will sit as part of the Health and Social Care Partnership Strategic Plan, and the Community Plan. It will also synergise with the new Child Protection Business Plan.
CPPs commented on the need for clear structures and lines of reporting and accountability to ensure delivery of local priorities; these areas are being regularly reviewed allowing CPPs to ensure that funding is targeted where it is most needed. Many of these structures include high-level, strategic, multi-agency groups providing strategic direction and reinforcing commitment to the early years agenda with various types of sub-groups, forums or networks driving and delivering the agenda at a local level.
In many areas, existing structures have been reviewed with CPPs restructuring in order to bring related programmes under a consolidated framework. Examples include South Lanarkshire: This has been done by embedding the Early Years Collaborative approach into existing groups, amending membership where necessary e.g. Early Years Co-ordination Group, Parenting Support Strategy Group, and the Early Years element of the Substance Misuse sub group.
Local GIRFEC (Getting it Right for Every Child) structures are being used to translate priorities to local action plans. CPPs reported: services based on the GIRFEC approach; the GIRFEC approach providing the framework for service delivery; early years appearing as a standing item on the agenda of GIRFEC boards and groups; and regular reports from GIRFEC boards and groups to the CPP and associated early years groups.
CPPs are setting targets in line with both national and local priorities, with priorities aligned to the Scottish Government SOA, the Early Years Framework and local needs. Similarly, funding from various sources is being used to deliver local early years priorities. For example, in Fife: Funding from Fife Council via the Family Nurture Approach budget (2013-16) has supported locality and community based innovation to enable an enhanced focus on local priorities. This has led to service redesign, trialling new systems and new ways of working to meet local needs resulting in better outcomes for children and families in the early years.
Several CPPs reported that they have appointed a Programme Manager or Development Officer to take forward the Early Years Collaborative agenda. Some examples include:
East Dunbartonshire: Programme Manager has been appointed to take forward the Early Years Collaborative agenda for a further period of 12 months. This joint post, between the Council and Community Health Partnership, will support the delivery of an integrated Early Years Strategy.
East Renfrewshire: The Change Fund has been used to recruit an Early Years Programme Manager and Data Analyst who are working to develop our approach to the Early Years Collaborative and the recently developed Early Years Strategy. As part of this work, change fund monies have been used to undertake a comprehensive review of the Early Years system in East Renfrewshire.
Moray: A fixed term (18 months) Partnership Early Years Development Officer has just been recruited. The post holder will compliment, co-locate and work in collaboration with other Partnership Officer posts for GIRFEC and Child Protection and lead in the continued embedding of EYC service improvement methodology and practice.
Reports on the delivery of services within CPPs indicate an emphasis on early intervention, prevention and improving outcomes for all children and their families.
Implementation has varied across CPPs with some reporting on area-wide initiatives and actions while others are taking a staged approach by focussing on one local area at a time.
Across the CPPs there was evidence of strong partnership and multi-agency working, joint action groups and community engagement. Structures are in place to lead implementation and delivery of local Early Years Change Fund priorities included a range of public, private and third sector partners. A number of CPPs reported on joint decision-making and data sharing.
Glasgow: In one area of the city, we have championed the Improving Futures Framework to improve and strengthen collaborative working between 3rd sector and public services.
Scottish Borders: A multi-agency partnership approach has been adopted to champion the Early Years agenda within Scottish Borders with strategic oversight through the Children and Young People's Leadership Group .
In addition, many CPPs reported on how they ensured that the voices of staff, parents, children and other community members were heard and their views incorporated in planning and service delivery. Examples include:
Dundee: We are particularly pleased that our ICSP planning approach has been heavily influenced by the experiences of children young people and their families and in fact the Editorial and Design Board for our ICSP has had significant input from Looked After Children, Young Carers, School forums and parents.
East Ayrshire: A new model of involving all children and young people in their planning has been developed and approved using the Wellbeing Web.
East Lothian: The Children and Young People Services Plan has been redeveloped during 2015 involving all member organisations and a broad range of: members of the public, children and young people, special interest groups, practitioners and staff, and community planning partners. The new Children and Young People services Plan 2016-2019 will be launched in March 2016.
Shetland: 'Poverty is bad, let's fix it' was a youth-led participatory investigation into poverty, social exclusion and inequality in Shetland. The outcomes from investigation were fed into the Fairer Shetland Framework (the local anti-poverty programme) which is one of the strategic drivers of the integrated children's services plan.
Early Years Collaborative
The Early Years Collaborative, a multi-agency quality improvement programme for early years services, was mentioned by all of the CPPs. In addition, several commented that the stretch aims of the Early Years Collaborative are embedded in their strategies and ways of working:
Argyll and Bute: The Early Years Collaborative stretch aims are within the new ICSP.
Fife: The Early Years Collaborative has supported further senior leader engagement through senior leader visits to support and promote work in the early years, but more fundamentally the objectives of early preventative support for children, families and communities. This commitment from senior leaders has helped give a high profile to work across early years services in Fife.
Highland: The improvement framework supports the CPP's commitment to meeting the stretch aims of the Early Years Collaborative. A leadership group has been established to review the ongoing work of the plan and has a broad membership including; lead officers from Highland Council, NHS Highland, SCRA and Police Scotland, service user representatives, third sector partners and elected members including the Children's Champion.
South Ayrshire: The new Integrated Children's Service Planning group, as part of South Ayrshire Health and Social Care and Community Planning Partnerships ( CPP), has fully supported the development of the Early Years Collaborative approach, with a dedicated officer, and the implementation of Getting It Right For Every Child ( GIRFEC).
Early Years Champions
Many CPPs included the name of their Early Years Champion or the post within their local structure that acts as Early Years Champion or leads the Early Years agenda. Champions were seen as key in driving forward the early years agenda.
There was also evidence of clear leadership at strategic-level, for example in West Dunbartonshire: We have a dedicated Early Years Executive Group with Heads of Service from the Community Health & Care Partnership ( CHCP) and Education working alongside the Community Planning Manager; providing leadership and guidance for the whole Early Years agenda.
Some also reported on a high level of awareness among elected members, for example the Western Isles: The Early Years agenda continues to be given strong political support by elected members, together with members of the Health Board.
CPPs are continuing to plan for the future, with reports of groups and strategies aimed at identifying the next steps towards improving outcomes for children and young people, including:
Perth and Kinross: We have continued to improve our early years provision in response to national developments, including implementation of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.
Midlothian: For 2015/16 onwards the multi-agency GIRFEC subgroup structure has been revised and the Prevention and Early Intervention Subgroup has been refreshed to become the Early Years Subgroup and is responsible for providing leadership on all relevant matters across a range of organisations and partnerships, such as the Play Strategy, Parenting and Family Support etc.
Fife: In November the Early Years Strategy Group finalised their strategy to provide a clear framework for early years services until 2017.
CPPs were also asked to provide information on the key challenges being faced in their areas. CPPs identified a range of different issues, from strategic to specific. In some areas the challenges remained constant across each of the three years of returns while for others, different issues emerged.
Resource issues emerged as a main challenge with many CPPs mentioning the pressure on budgets or on workforce capacity or the need to prioritise work because of budgetary constraints. For example:
Argyll and Bute: Reductions in public sector funding may present additional difficulties in how we manage early interventions and prevention.
Moray: Moray CPP is fully committed to the aims of the EYC, this does bring to bear considerable pressures upon a workforce who are already working to full capacity. However, there is no doubting the value for the future of Moray's children by investing both time and resource in the early years and early intervention and prevention. The key challenge for 2016/17 is continuing funding to support the work of the strategy group and EYC in Moray.
South Lanarkshire: Finding sustainable ways of supporting the most vulnerable children and families at a time of significant budgetary constraint and operational expansion in early years services .
Orkney: Recruitment and retention of staff continues to cause difficulty, as do increasing workloads with decreasing finances.
Other resource issues included the need to have staff available to train all those who want to learn the improvement methodology and become actively involved in the Early Years Collaborative (Aberdeenshire). In addition, one CPP commented on the challenges faced in assisting those who have not previously engaged with the preventative early years agenda to do so.
Data and information sharing, particularly where partners use different systems, also emerged as issues, especially in the 2012/13 returns, and for some CPPs this has continued to cause challenges. In 2013/14, South Lanarkshire reported: Sharing relevant data across complex partner organisations that use different IT and recording systems remains a challenge, even with the advances made under the GIRFEC agenda.
Financial accounting also posed challenges for some CPPs, including:
Falkirk: There are also areas of challenge across agencies in separating preventative spend from other areas of spend and in identifying the Falkirk portion of monies allocated on a Forth Valley basis.
Shetland: Identifying where resources are used in relation to outcomes.
CPPs commented on the need to address requirements or implications of the Welfare Reform Bill and the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act (2014). Other significant national changes were mentioned and included:
Glasgow: The volume and pace of change at all levels within early years is also a challenge - as the significant expansion of universal entitlement to flexible nursery provision and consultation with parents around childcare needs is underway at the same time as driving forward the focus on early intervention and just coping families.
South Lanarkshire: Ensuring robust links with adult services at time of significant organisational and structural change for adult social care and community care services and the ongoing review of arrangements to support justice services.
South Ayrshire: Integration of the Health and Social Care Partnership into governance and planning arrangements.
CPPs also commented on challenges caused by the need to balance local and national, or strategic and operational priorities.
Geographic challenges were apparent in the more rural or island CPPs. In Orkney, for example: Challenges related to the equitable delivery of services across a geographical spread of seventeen separate islands, in addition to the mainland of Orkney, not only in terms of human resource but in terms of time and travel cost.
Other challenges identified by CPPs included:
- Balancing a preventative agenda with the continuing need for intervention and crisis management.
- Service provision and engagement in the context of high levels of poverty and deprivation.
- Issues around engaging with 'hard to reach' families and other specific local challenges.
Email: Steven Fogg, email@example.com