What is Together for Childhood?
Together for Childhood is a ground-breaking, partnership approach to create new strategies to prevent child abuse and neglect.
Together for Childhood partnerships are putting local communities, children and families at the heart of the change. It is a 10-year commitment by the NSPCC aimed at demonstrating that child abuse is preventable, building partnerships that can drive preventable activities and services, creating sustainable system change and increasing public and professionals confidence in tacking the causes of neglect and abuse.
The partnerships will include a range of new innovative ideas which the local community will develop with local partners. These will include direct services for children, young people and families and public awareness campaigns.
The NSPCC chose only four sites in the UK to introduce ‘Together for Childhood’: Stoke & Plymouth, with a focus on the prevention of child sexual abuse, and Glasgow and Grimsby, focusing on the prevention of child abuse and neglect due to multiple adversities.
Grimsby was chosen, not just because the two wards of East Marsh and West Marsh have high levels of deprivation and demand across a range of public and third sector services, but also because there was a recognition that there is a strong history of successful partnership working here, and therefore foundations which would provide the best chance possible of success. There is also a powerful historic NSPCC presence in the area.
Together for Childhood builds on the best of what partners are already doing.
Analysis undertaken in 2016 showed that the key drivers of demand for Children’s Services are domestic abuse, parental mental health and substance misuse. Issues also identified were that some families needed working with for longer, those families most at need were less likely to access early help services and that we need to work more closely with our partners.
This analysis informed the Council’s 0–19 Programme and prompted a whole service re-design of prevention and early help. In addition to a review of the Council’s own services this prompted discussions around making changes at a system wide level. It was agreed that undertaking focussed partnership work at a local level would be a good way to test how we might improve the system prior to rolling out a new model of working across the borough.
The work of the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (which includes the NSPCC, North East Lincolnshire Council, Humberside Police, health partners, the voluntary sector and schools) was already illustrating successes through partnership working. The successful Neglect Matters campaign, a collaboration between the NSPCC, North East Lincolnshire Council, the Local Safeguarding Children’s board and other agencies aimed to prevent and raise awareness of child neglect, and contributed to a decline in the number of child protection plans over the last four years.
Humberside Police also fully staffed and co-located two dedicated Early Intervention Community Policing teams in local Family Hubs serving East and West Marsh. These teams are working dynamically with children and families in order to break the intergenerational cycle of harm. They work closely with their Community Policing team colleagues, with overlapping demand reduction initiatives. They integrate and share responsibility for problem solving with partners.
The growing strength of the wider partnerships between statutory partners, businesses and the voluntary and community sector and new approaches to working with communities also offer real potential for sustainable change and these are key partners in current and future developments of Together for Childhood.
There will be a focus on innovation and evidence based practice throughout the lifetime of the project. The success of the project will be measured against the design principles below:
· Together, with a shared vision and courage to innovate
· Building the strengths and capacity of the local community, with openness, honesty and respect
· Relationship centred within families and between services and communities
· Enabling and empowering communities to sustain their own changes
· Listening to people, learning continuously and using evidence based practice
What has happened to date?
The three founding organisations (NSPCC, NELC and Humberside Police) already had substantial alignment in their existing outcome priorities and across the partnership. These were distilled down into a clear agreement and interest in achieving three main objectives:
1. Improve the physical and emotional health of children and families
2. Prevention of abuse and neglect of children in families facing adversity, such as domestic abuse, substance misuse and parental mental ill health.
3. Help parents to develop and sustain more positive parenting skills and better relationships with their children
A Programme Board was established in early 2018. It is currently chaired by Spencer Hunt (Assistant Director Safer North East Lincolnshire for NELC) and has representation from senior managers from health, the police, the voluntary sector and NSPCC. The board provides strategic oversight of the programme, whilst the Operational Group, which meets monthly and was established in 2017, has representation from a very wide range of organisations, all of whom support vulnerable children and families.
Five workstreams were chosen by the operational group in 2018. These workstreams were established as the initial focus of the partnership, linking the needs to meet partnership objectives, ensuring effectiveness and beginning the involvement of the community in developing solutions. Anecdotally, they are areas where there is an appetite and necessity to put into practice some of the theory behind improved partnership working and working practices. The overarching aims of these workstreams are to:
· Develop integrated models of delivery and further improve relationships with partners
· Connect with the community, building local confidence and a passion for change
· Define demand with a view to developing a consistent multi-agency approach to response
· Ensure the workforce are appropriately developed to understand and respond to the challenge
The current workstreams are:
Prevention of domestic abuse — local professionals and residents with knowledge and experience of domestic abuse have developed a theory of change using research and evidence about the things which prevent domestic abuse. Out of this, six preventative actions have been adopted by the NEL Domestic Abuse One System Approach (OSA) group. The partnership will need to consider priorities and how resources can be allocated to these actions and this will be owned by both the OSA group and any working groups set up by the Together for Childhood domestic abuse workstream, with the two being integrated.
Better engaging fathers — A multi-agency group is working to develop a range of activities and create a systems-wide Fathers Engagement Strategy. Some of our systems are not set up to make fathers feel as valued in parenting as they should and so they sometimes underestimate the importance of their role. We want to increase their involvement with children and family services, help them better understand how they can keep children safe, parent positively, and how important their healthy relationship is with their children are. A draft theory of change has been developed using research and evidence about what works to improve father’s relationships with services and their families and the working group will be moving towards an action plan development over the summer of 2019. Work with Community Midwifery is already planned to support men, alongside their partners, to prepare for parenthood.
Trauma-informed care — This comprises 2 workstreams:
Sharing the Science — We want to train the whole workforce and some community members, in the use of the Alberta Family Wellness Brain Story and its supporting metaphors https://www.albertafamilywellness.org/what-we-know/the-brain-story . Our aim is to create a shared understanding of child development and trauma so that people are trained in practical ways to support a child and can communicate about keeping children safe more clearly. This training is being piloted now and if the evaluation is positive it will be rolled out in the summer of 2019.
Trauma-informed schools — Staff in local schools are being trained to understand the impact of trauma, respond appropriately and better understand prevention so that they feel more confident to identify the risk factors of abuse and act accordingly. This has begun in four local schools already — Yarborough Academy, Wellspring Phoenix Park, Ormiston Maritime and Queen Mary Infants.
An iteration of the Keeping Safe schools pilot project will develop and test a whole school approach to improved safeguarding. This will include an innovative trauma-informed schools approach which will be based on Restorative Practice. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen technical problems this will take some time to be ready, but should be available for local schools in Sept’ 2020.
Working with Communities — The initial period of work has illustrated that the best way of meeting the Together for Childhood principles in this workstream is to get ‘alongside’ communities. A dedicated part time resource for this workstream has seen our partnership taking its place within groups — developing relationships, generating trust, listening, offering ideas and support and signposting. Groups and community members in both East and West Marsh have welcomed the ‘alongsider’ approach and highlighted the desire for partnership working on activities which bring the change they want to see, or that bring the community together. Through this approach we have already supported the community in East Marsh to create new partnerships, successfully apply for funding and to begin to create changes for the future. These relationships with groups offer a clear conduit into other Together for Childhood workstreams and partner activity and we know that if successful any community led/partnership projects will build community capacity and strength and ultimately positively influence the lives children and families in the wards. In the next quarter we will continue to build on what is strong in the communities in East and West Marsh and ensure that community voice and involvement is fully embedded in action planning and service developments within the other workstreams.
Evaluation — The evaluators are working collaboratively to build capacity for evaluation, to ensure models of delivery are working well and will be within the aims of TFC. This includes; Process evaluation, Sharing the Science pilot evaluation (where findings are informing the development of the next phase of rollout in Grimsby), Police early intervention teams in East and West Marsh (the evaluators have guided police colleagues to be better able to evaluate their impact), there is also a plan to deliver an “Introduction to Evaluation” training day to voluntary organisations with a view to this being offered more widely to partnership organisations. Evaluators have also recently reported findings that relate to (i) Community engagement (ii) Multiple-adversities (iii) Hard to Reach (iv) Location.
Early Years Task and finish group
This has been set up after the TfC Operations Group received a report about the disadvantage gap in early years settings. We are examining the usual questions around what we can do to reduce the attainment gap between those from the most deprived wards and others, with a vision that no community should be left behind.
The NSPCC Look, Say, Sing, Play campaign, which launched in Grimsby on 17 April, sits alongside this work and empowers parents to change everyday moments into brain-building ones. It’s aimed at parents with babies under two, and is designed to be relevant right from birth. The campaign is based on fun and easy tips to help parents have high quality interactions with their baby by bringing more Look, Say, Sing, Play into their daily routine. It’s about making the most of what they’re already doing, rather than adding to the list of things they need to do. As well as helping with brain development, the tips are also designed to help parents bond with their baby. Every tip comes with an explanation of why it works and how it helps, so that parents can understand the importance of what they’re doing and feel empowered. We’re also emphasising the importance of ‘serve and return’ interactions — not just singing or talking at baby, but taking a cue from them and reacting to what they’re doing.
The most successful parts of Together for Childhood will be shared with other areas in Grimsby, so what works well can be replicated. To find out more about Together for Childhood, email the programme lead, Gary Fenwick on firstname.lastname@example.org