Our new early action fund, which launched earlier this month, aims to put people and partnerships at the heart of lasting system change. So far, in previous early action blogs, we have touched upon two of the three areas that we want this funding to help address. In this third and final blog post, our Policy and Learning Adviser, Deborah Hay, shares her thoughts behind the third area for investment…Children, Young People and Families….
Last week, I attended an end of term celebration event at my daughter’s school. The head boy and girl, after consulting with their peers, had decided to make mental health their charity theme for the year. They talked passionately about how important an issue poor mental health was for the young people they knew and how much they wanted to see more of the right kind of support in place.
Earlier this year, a grant holder told me that their local authority was struggling to manage Child and Adolescent Mental Health waiting lists (CAMHs) with hundreds of youngsters waiting to be seen. Her experience suggested that many of those youngsters wouldn’t need specialist psychiatric help and that after a formal assessment some months or even years from now, would probably be referred to community based support services – services which may or may not be available. Her view was that it would be faster and a better use of resources not to wait for that referral but instead to hold several hundred children’s planning meetings, to discuss all the needs of each of those youngsters in turn (education, health, friendships, family and relationships) and draw on or commission the right local support. But despite Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC), she couldn’t see a mechanism locally to push through that change of emphasis – she was faced with a ‘system’ that had its own rules and momentum.
I have no idea if that is right or not. But I am excited about the potential for the Early Action System Change programme to create a space for and resource those kinds of conversations – ones that will unearth those ideas and help local partnerships identify where effective, earlier intervention could work; really explore what the data tells us about the outcomes being achieved and where resources could be shifted to more preventative work; and to bring about valuable changes to the way we respond to children, young people and families who need support.
I admit to having a wee tear in my eye at my daughter’s school event – yes, I was a very proud parent, but I was also moved by the passion with which the young people spoke about mental health, their care for each other and the insight they brought. Children, young people and families and their lived experience must be central to any re-design and are a key part of the ‘data’. As a Mum who wants her kids to do well and sets high expectations for them, I am painfully aware I may be part of the problem – the relentless pressure to ‘do well’ rather than ‘be happy’. I know that ‘system change’ may mean significant shifts in services, policies and resources, but it might also mean more subtle changes are needed from people like me, too.
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