If integration is the aim, then every minister needs to be a minister for children

This point was powerfully brought home when the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children met to discuss putting children at the heart of Integrated Care Systems, the new structures being established by the forthcoming Health and Care Act.

The killing of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes has underlined yet again that when it comes to safeguarding children, the welfare of a child is everyone’s business.

Similarly, at Governmental level, it’s not enough to have a single Minister in charge of policy relating to babies, children, and young people. Looking after this group spans too wide a breadth of policy. Every Minister must be a minister for children.

This point was powerfully brought home when the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children met to discuss putting children at the heart of Integrated Care Systems, the new structures being established by the forthcoming Health and Care Act.

<<< FIND OUT MORE IN TIM LOUGHTON’S BLOG FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE NOW MAGAZINE >>>

Former Children’s Minister Tim Loughton MP, who chairs the APPGC, welcomed an offer by the serving Minister for Health and Social Care, Edward Argar MP, to meet with children and young people in listening mode, and find out their ideas for making Integrated Care Systems (ICS) work.

At the meeting on 6th December, over 130 members of the children’s sector joined parents, young people, Government officials and Parliamentarians to discuss the challenges and opportunities offered by the Health and Care Bill – which is currently making its way through the House of Lords.

The Children and Young People’s Health Policy Influencing Group (HPIG), hosted by the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) and the Council for Disabled Children (CDC) and representing over 70 leading voluntary organisations, Royal Colleges and professional associations, worked with officials from the Department of Health and Social Care and MPs as the bill progressed through the House of Commons. A number of HPIG’s amendments aimed at securing a greater focus for babies, children and young people in the bill were tabled and, importantly, Edward Argar MP gave a commitment to developing “bespoke guidance for Integrated Care Systems on meeting the needs of babies, children and young people”.

HPIG is now continuing to work with officials, and Parliamentarians in the House of Lords, to ensure that the needs of children are at the heart of the new Integrated Care System. In the recent second reading debate, a number of Peers spoke passionately about how the bill can be amended to successfully meet these needs, including the improvement of data and information sharing. You can find HPIG’s second reading briefing here, detailing the children sector’s priorities for the bill as it passes through the Lords, or in the list of resources below.

In a packed agenda at the APPGC, speakers discussed the opportunities for better integration of services:

  • Edward Argar MP, the Minister for Health and Social Care, restated the importance of multi-agency working - including housing - and why the needs of children need to be at the heart of integrated care.
  • Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau, emphasised: the need to strengthen accountability for ICSs through a national accountability framework; supporting the transition from Clinical Commissioning Groups to ICSs; and improving data and information sharing for children. She also called for the Better Care Fund to be extended to cover children and for the implementation guidance for children to be put on a statutory footing.
  • Dame Rachel de Souza, Children’s Commissioner for England, shared findings from the Big Ask which showed mental health is a leading priority for children and young people, especially those with SEND. She called for new Mental Health Support Teams to be rolled out with greater urgency.
  • Sue Rumbold, Programme Director, Children and Families Programme, West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership, described their journey prioritising the 28% of local children growing up in poverty.
  • Rose, an expert by experience of social care with the Living Assessments programme and a trustee of the National Children’s Bureau, explained how properly integrated care can improve outcomes in a variety of ways, provided services are co-produced with children and families.
  • Samya, from the Association for Young People’s Health and a Youth Representative for NHSE/I Children and Young People’s Transformation Board, described waiting 12-months for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and how poor communication between services compounded her issues and wasted precious resources.
  • In a video message, parent Leanne discussed her personal experience of what good integrated care looks like. She described how she hid her need for help until a key worker could reach out and help her navigate the mental health system.
  • Stephen Kingdom, Campaign Manager at the Disabled Children’s Partnership, explained why children with SEND are particularly reliant on joined-up care, arguing that we can’t allow families to be shunted from pillar to post before having their needs met. He said integrated care needs to focus on funding, accountability and leadership.
  • Simon Kenny, a children’s surgeon and clinical director for children and young people at NHS England reminded the APPGC that integration is at the heart of NHS long-term plan. He stressed that improvements in data sharing must go further.
  • Amanda Allard, Assistant Director at the Council for Disabled Children, echoed the need for data sharing across agencies and stressed that solutions needed to be found for difficulties around governance and accountability related to sharing children’s data.

Find out more about the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children here.

Other resources highlighted by attendees at the meeting include:

  • Health Policy Influencing Group – Briefing on Health and Care Bill. This briefing explores the Government’s commitment to produce bespoke guidance on applying the legislation for babies, children and young people so their needs are properly met.
  • Open University - development training on mental health. This CPD certified course helps practitioners understand the factor that affect the mental health of children aged 0-5.
  • North London ICS - Breastfeeding support – This case study explores integration in practice when Better Breastfeeding worked with partners in North Central London Local Maternity System (LMS) to develop a coproduced LMS-wide Infant Feeding Strategy.
  • Hart’s Ladder of Participation categorises different levels of children and young people’s involvement in projects as a ladder, enabling participation initiatives to be of the highest quality.
  • Lundy’s model of Participation provides a way of conceptualising a child's right to participation, as laid down in Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • Wood Review of Multi-Agency Safeguarding sets out recommendations for making new multi-agency safeguarding arrangements for local areas more effective.
  • The PLACE Network aims to develop, promote, and sustain parent and carer support and involvement in children and young people’s mental health across the UK.