Maureen McAteer explains how the national third sector GIRFEC project is aiming to improve children's lives in Scotland
What is the National Third Sector GIRFEC Project?
The project aims to strengthen the role of the community and third sector organisations in community planning with a particular emphasis on ensuring that these organisations are involved in planning around Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC). It is a Public Social Partnership (PSP) between a core group of organisations, Barnardo’s Scotland, Voluntary Action Scotland and the Improvement Service, with support from other third sector partners including the Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland (CCPS). It is funded by the Scottish Government and we are half way through a three-year project.
Over the three years we are aiming to work with 10 Community Planning Partnership (CCP) areas as well as sharing the learning from this work with other CPPs through new and established networks and local and national events.
Whilst there is a great willingness to involve the third sector in community planning processes, the reality is that levels of engagement are patchy across the countryMaureen McAteer
How will this project improve the lives of children in Scotland?
Too many children in Scotland still struggle to access the same life opportunities as their healthier or wealthier peers. For example, 20% of young carers leave school without moving into training, further education or a job. Young carers are also more likely to have fewer qualifications and suffer from their own health concerns, including mental health problems. Part of the issue is the need for greater co-ordination of support from the different organisations that young carers are engaging with. Effective delivery of GIRFEC through a more joined up approach between councils, local charities, schools and the health service can ensure a better future for young people who face additional challenges.
Why do is this project necessary?
The delivery of children’s services is taking place in a changing policy and legislative environment set against a programme of public sector reform. Community planning which meaningfully engages with the third sector as partners in the process is central to the effective delivery of GIRFEC and to the success of public sector reform. Whilst there is a great willingness to involve the third sector in community planning processes, the reality is that levels of engagement are patchy across the country. There is a need to improve understanding between the public sector and third sector if we are to ensure services are effective at intervening early for children and families and reducing inequalities.
What exactly does it do?
We support CPP’s to explore their current Children’s Services Partnership through a self-evaluation process. The feedback from this process provides local areas with evidence of strengths and weaknesses, which then inform the content of a shared, locally developed improvement plan. With the support of project staff, issues identified in the improvement plan are acted upon and a local learning session is then organised to cascade the learning out to other CPP areas with a geographic or thematic connection to the host CPP.
What have you learnt so far?
The early learning from the project shows there is a great deal of interest in, and commitment to, working in partnership. The culture is right, but people have expressed the need for more opportunities, like those offered by the project, to jointly discuss and develop the strategic building blocks needed for consistent collaboration both between and within sectors. If we are going to deliver meaningful improvements for the children, young people and families in our communities we need to continue our journey toward greater engagement and involvement.
Maureen McAteer is the project director of the National Third Sector GIRFEC Project. The first national learning event of the National Third Sector GIRFEC project is taking place on 6 February in Edinburgh. Find out more about the project and future learning events.