ESN Peer Review Investing in Children Services, Improving Outcomes

The second peer review of the European Social Network (ESN) project Investing in Children Services, Improving Outcomes took place in Barcelona on 5th of June and brought together representatives from national, regional and local government, public and not-for-profit children services from Catalonia in Spain, Scotland in the UK, Germany, Poland and the Netherlands.

The final roundtable of the meeting was chaired by ESN’s Chief Executive John Halloran and focused on the implementation of the concept of social investment in the field of children and policy proposals governments should undertake to ensure the implementation of the European Commission’s Recommendation ‘Investing in children’.

Mercè Santmartí i Miró, General Director of Children and Adolescents at the Catalan government, spoke of investment as a synonym for prevention and as a way of detecting potential problems early on. “Our tool is the Pact for Children because of the wide consensus reached among politicians, public authorities and civil society and how encompassing it is, including seven pillars with specific measures to reach the strategic goals we all agreed”, she added.

Helen Happer, Head of Quality and Improvement at the Care Inspectorate, the Scottish Government, explained that “investment is a question of language which promotes optimism on the one hand, whilst on the other places a strong emphasis on early childcare and the long term objective of improving children’s outcomes later in life.”

Aleksandra Kowalczyk, Expert at Family Policy Department, Polish Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, argued for “investment in policies promoting the access of families and children to services with a focus on rural areas and the improvement of mechanisms promoting professional cooperation.”

Looking at which policies could be helpful in encouraging more inter-agency cooperation and the inclusion of children themselves in the process, the following directions were highlighted:

  • Policies should aim for reinforcing the role of professionals who can actually make sure that inter-sectoral cooperation takes place and that children are included;
  • Policies should aim for reinforcing the role of local authorities in bringing professionals together, e.g. working with schools, with local social services and primary health care;
  • Establishing local and regional boards composed of professionals and councillors in order to define the policies in a collaborative way;
  • Move to a more outcomes-focused approach, including more emphasis on subjective social welfare measurements;
  • Incorporating child participation in laws, plans and in the education system, e.g. having young inspectorates and children councils at various levels and integrated in various structures;
  • Having young inspectorates who interview young people using services, as well as chief executives in local authorities.

Concluding the session, ESN’s Chief Executive John Halloran spoke of “the need to ensure that we embrace a wider concept of child poverty that not only accounts for material poverty, but also for social development, education and participation. For this, we need a systematic and evidence-based approach. At ESN we will work with the Commission to look at how one might evaluate the implementation of the Recommendation. This should have a cumulative effect, adding the different bits of knowledge in order to turn the debate from a purely economic question to a more social based one, hopefully with the use of a new language, too”.