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425 UK & international governance: Good practice in local government


An effective ethos


of early intervention Lancashire County Council is pioneering a series of innovative programmes to help disadvantaged children and their families


E


ngaging with a family can be tough. Very few people welcome outside intervention from friends, relatives or


neighbours, never mind local authorities. But, by reaching out and offering support early on in a family’s life, the Directorate for Children and Young People at Lancashire County Council (LCC) is making a difference, through some genuinely innovative programmes. One such initiative is the Best Start Lancashire scheme.


It develops the skills and confidence of parents and children alike, with the aim of improving children’s social and educational outcomes. Tis holistic approach to identifying, tackling and preventing problems early on is groundbreaking in its field. “Te programme prepares eligible children for school


education,” says Louise Taylor, Executive Director for Children and Young People. “It helps to prevent a gap developing between them and their peers, which would invariably widen as their schooling continued. It’s about getting parents involved in their children’s education by supporting parenting, communication, language, literacy and numeracy during these critical early years.” Te scheme is delivering tangible results, with pupils in


the most disadvantaged areas of Lancashire comparing well with the national average and the performance of similar local authorities. It is just one of several directorate initiatives aimed at supporting families, partner agencies and associated


professionals in obtaining the best life chances for all children across this diverse and expansive county.


Adopting new values LCC has also led the way in revolutionising the provision for children who need to be moved away from their birth family. Under its Best for Baby—Concurrent Placements scheme, children are temporarily placed with carers approved as both foster carers and adopters, until a final decision is made about their future. Depending on the court’s ruling, the children could have the option to stay with the carers permanently. Tis results in a seamless transition to adoption, with improved family bonding and a more stable experience for the child. Te directorate is equally passionate about older children


and young adults. It has pioneered the introduction of social workers in schools, with the aim of identifying and responding to issues sooner rather than later. “A social worker at the heart of a school community is better


placed to develop the trust, insight and respect needed to work in close partnership with the children, families, teachers and other external bodies,” says Taylor. “Te success of this, and our other schemes, really is testament to a more collaborative approach to working with families from the outset. It makes all the difference.” — www.lancashire.gov.uk


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