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Our past work shows that social services recognise the importance of improving coordination with other sectors to:

  • better address the complex issues people face, by drawing on the expertise of different sectors
  • promote early identification of needs through more preventative approaches

We examined this subject in more detail in our working group on Integrated Care and Support which met for the first time on 29-30 November 2018 and focussed on children.

Progress on implementing more integrated support for children varies across Europe. Anja Langness, Bertelsmann Stiftung (Germany) described the following findings from a study linked to their ‘Leave no child behind’ project:

  • integrated policies for children are often implemented locally in more decentralised countries
  • inter-sectoral networks have been established in several countries yet in others fragmented service provision with little coordination persists.

With this European picture in mind, our members discussed effective strategies they are implementing locally, regionally and nationally.

A shared responsibility

Firstly, child welfare should be a shared responsibility among different professionals, as those from education, health, and police are all likely to come into contact with vulnerable children through their work.

Teodóra Ráczné Németh, Directorate General for Social Affairs and Child Protection (Hungary) presented how an Inter-sectoral Team has been developed at national level to underpin this shared responsibility. As a result, this team has improved understanding of the different responsibilities for each sector, and enhanced communication to promote preventative measures, such as a signalling system for children at risk.

A shared vision

Developing a shared vision for the child and the family, in conjunction with different services, is a key component for preventing situations where an array of services each have separate plans and visions.

Jesús Vaca presented how this is being achieved in Navarra (Spain) through the ‘Early Detection and Intervention’ project. One element of the project is that professionals from health, social, and education services and the family come together to create a single plan for the family.

Better outcomes for children?

Mary Baginsky, King’s College London, revealed that there is scientific evidence for demonstrating improved coordination between organisations through projects on integrated care and support. However, positive outcomes for children are largely based on perceptions, with a lack of evidence for the actual impact. Our members agreed that they are keen to utilise more evaluation tools for assessing this impact.

The goal of our Integrated Care and Support working group is to build a library of innovative practices implemented by our members. Their practices and discussions will serve as inspiration for social services across Europe to develop more integrated care and support for children. These practices will be published on our elibrary in February 2019.