Agenda item

Growing up in County Durham - Children, Young People and Families Strategy


The Committee received a report of the Corporate Director of Children and Young People’s Services and Chair of Children, Young People and Families Partnership Board that provided members with a draft Growing Up in County Durham (GUiCD) 2023-25 Strategy for comments (for copy of report, see file of minutes).


The Deputy Chair Children, Young People and Families Partnership and Joint Head of Integrated Commissioningand Strategic Manager Partnerships were in attendance to present the report.


Members were advised that the consultation had been in three stages and that following the Partnership presenting to members at stage two of the consultation process at a previous meeting their comments had been analysed and incorporated into the draft strategy before members. Members were informed that stage three of the consultation was live and would run until 12 October.


Councillor Varty asked how often the strategy would be reassessed in the future.


The Deputy Chair Children, Young People and Families Partnership and Joint Head of Integrated Commissioning responded that the initial priorities would run until 2025. However, during the lifetime of delivery they would be involving people in how they deliver and monitor the effectiveness. They would also be ensuring that they had something new to take its place in 2025 so in 18 months of the life of the strategy they would be starting the cycle again to develop a new strategy.


Councillor Sterling indicated that the consultation and engagement was critical to the strategy, and she asked how this would be monitored and what percentage return was seen as being successful. If the engagement was low would the consultation be extended and how would improvements be made in the engagement.


The Deputy Chair Children, Young People and Families Partnership and Joint Head of Integrated Commissioning responded that they had carried out a lot of work to encourage people to respond to the consultation. Throughout the stages of the process with the dedicated sessions that had taken place they had targeted stake holder groups to ensure that people in hard-to-reach groups were involved in the development that helped to ensure that they did not have any of those gaps. This was something that was always looked to build on and improve and find different ways of engaging with people and working with some of the voluntary sector partners who often had a better reach to groups than the Council. In an ideal world they would like to receive feedback from a large percentage of the population, but they had to be realistic in what they could achieve. They did not set themselves a percentage target, but they knew what was comparable from other surveys. They would not know how many responses they had received until the end of the consultation, but they would look at this closely to see if any specific additional work was required and feed this back to the committee as a briefing note.


In response to a further question from Councillor Sterling the Strategic Manager Partnerships advised that comparisons could be made with previous strategies as lots of engagement had taken place in relation to health and care consultations. The Strategic Manager Partnerships added that work was always done with hard-to-reach groups and indicated that they carried out a regular student voice survey and the response so far was 10,000 as well as the AAP survey where the information could be utilised.  However, performance would manage success as it was not all about numbers but outcomes and people telling their stories about how their lives had been impacted and improved.


Councillor Coult stated that consultation was critical, she then referred to page 41 of the report that referenced mutual trust and respect that was vital, and that it was critical that they got that right. She commented that there was an immense number of challenges and a short time scale and asked if this was achievable.


The Deputy Chair Children, Young People and Families Partnership and Joint Head of Integrated Commissioning responded that a number of the issues were societal and generational and making those changes was not possible in two years. If they set themselves impossible targets, they would be demotivated in terms of not meeting them and the detail was in the action plan, they wanted to be stretching and challenging but also, they needed to be realistic about what they could deliver. They could bring the action plan back to committee for further scrutiny and discussion. They wanted to make a real difference as a result of the strategy.


In response to a question from Mrs Gunn, the Strategic Manager Partnerships confirmed that an Educational Psychologists was part of the strategy development group who had been involved throughout the process.


Mrs Gunn commented on COVID not being a theme itself in the strategy but impacted on all the themes. She stated that the positive impact of COVID was missing from the strategy, such as people spending more time with their families. She then referred to the term fairer opportunities and what this was trying to achieve and felt the word fairer was very subjective and this would be hard to measure. There were a lot of opportunities, but the problems were the barriers to reach opportunities. She then referred to the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs model that would fit well into the model to visually show how people had their basic needs met and then how opportunities were reflected.


The Deputy Chair Children, Young People and Families Partnership and Joint Head of Integrated Commissioning responded that when they first looked to develop the strategy, the internal stakeholder group put forward all the things that were linked to their professions around education, social care and vulnerable children. Some within the stakeholder group asked about the broader determinants such as jobs, homes and families. The group decided at that point to take a co-production approach using what children, young people and families had said to them. They needed to deliver all the statutory duties but what was most important were the basic things around people’s wellbeing and their lives. They were looking at the action plan to see how they manage and measure deliverables. With regard to COVID, initially they thought they needed a section on COVID and a group working on COVID as this had a big impact on lives, but COVID was threaded through everything, and it needed to be considered in everything they did. When reviewing support or delivery they were thinking about the impact of COVID and what they might need to change or services or support to develop to take into account the impact COVID had had on communities.


Councillor Gunn indicated that there was nothing wrong with being ambitious it was whether it was achievable, she could see where they were going with the strategy and that they wanted to have ambition for children and young people and families in County Durham. She indicated that poverty was a thread and there was not enough in the strategy on the impacts of being in poverty. She agreed with Mrs Gunn with regard to the term fairer opportunities, as what was considered fair by one person was not by another. Everyone lived in different circumstances, but all knew that circumstances for a lot of children and families across the County were difficult and were getting worse. She referred to the recent report from the North East Child Poverty Commission and that one in three children in the North East were living in poverty. She then referred to the report sent out yesterday by the Head of Early Help, Inclusion and Vulnerable Children to Councillors around poverty issues and what the council were doing and indicated that she found it difficult to criticise and be negative, but she believed that the impact of poverty should come out more and what had been said was relevant but not made strong enough in the Strategy. Councillor Gunn commented that she liked the idea of using the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs model and would be good visually.


Mrs Gunn indicated that the poverty context could also be used in the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs model.


The Deputy Chair Children, Young People and Families Partnership and Joint Head of Integrated Commissioning responded that Councillor Gunn did highlight poverty last time and they had strengthened it in the strategy but would take on board her comments that it should be potentially stronger. They were aware of the issues and added it was about developing actions in response to this and how they could ensure poverty proofing against actions and services.


Officers referred to the fairer opportunities that was a difficult debate and the word opportunities came through from this committee. There was lots of poverty impact and was a real issue that people were worried about, and they would take on board and indicated that the poverty action plan was being consulted on and there was a planned session with the Head of Transactional and Customer Services with Committee and they were working across the different partnerships and would make sure that the information from the consultation was provided to the Head of Transactional and Customer Services. There was a role for the Children, Young People and Families Partnership Board, and they would ensure that this was reflected.


Councillor Gunn commented that it was an ambitious plan but so many things could impact on delivering the plan, funding was the main one and where that funding came from. She asked that her thanks be passed onto everyone involved in the strategy.


Councillor Hunt commented that she did not see anything in the plan with regard to bullying and mental health. She had done some work on this in her ward and bullying in schools was on the increase and had a massive impact on lots of other matters and stated that she would like to see something included on how to tackle this issue.


The Deputy Chair Children, Young People and Families Partnership and Joint Head of Integrated Commissioning thanked Councillor Hunt for her helpful comments.


Councillor Deinali asked if there would be anything to look at the impact on barriers to opportunities in terms of poor working families who did not have any opportunities as they did not have any additional income.


The Deputy Chair Children, Young People and Families Partnership and Joint Head of Integrated Commissioning responded that they did not want to replicate the work of the poverty action groups and the Children and Young Peoples’ Partnership Board were looking at the impact on children and young people’s health and wellbeing. In terms of specific actions, they would be looked at when the action plan is developed but it was important to get information out to families and carers on what was available for them.


Councillor Walton asked when measuring success could they ask young people what they thought of the results. She then advised members that the link to the consultation would be circulated by the scrutiny officer to ensure members had an opportunity to provide individual comments too.


Officers responded that the aim was to involve the groups and networks on the impact on an ongoing basis.


Resolved: That the draft GUiCD Strategy be received.

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