By Nic Crosby
A thought: Each of us with our families seek joyful experiences, sharing, learning, playing, sitting in the bed in the morning talking ‘daft. In service land we seem to spend every day cutting joy out of children’s, young peoples and those who love them most lives, how is this right? If we wouldn’t accept it for ourselves how is it right?
I was talking with a student at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia whilst working there in April. We were talking about personal planning. He talked about a lecture from a psychiatrist who shared two stories, one of a 17 year old young man and the second of a 30 year old who is now living in an institution. The psychiatrist said if we don’t do something different and do something now the 17 year old would end up in the institution by the time he is 30.
A friend on Facebook shared information about the challenges faced by young people getting help from mental health services and how often the support is too late or their support needs have got so much greater by the time they see someone.
National research as covered by the TES[i] in June earlier in the year documented the rising (60% since 2011) number of exclusions of children and young people with an autism diagnosis and how they end up outside of mainstream education and ‘needing’ more and more specialist support.
Transforming Care, the national programme to end the institutionalisation of people is ending in a year’s time and we see little or no change in the experiences of families and children bar discussion about how life can be made better in residential schools and colleges. In fact recently, in evidence shared by Professor Chris Hatton (Lancaster University) in his blog ‘Ignorance is strength[ii]’ admissions for under 18’s has risen by 47%, that’s 47% in the last two years!
A good friend, working with the Macedonian government shared this “What should be noted is that every admission to an institution is a failure of us on the outside.’ (Professor Vito Flaker, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia)
These ‘SocialCareFuture’ blogs are not though simply an opportunity to list all the problems but a start seeking and finding solutions, sharing where found examples that provide a hint of a different way of doing things. Albert Einstein says it most clearly and it’s a phrase I don’t think can be bettered;
‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them’
Since the first draft of this blog there has been an increase in the discussion about early intervention and prevention in the children’s world which is brilliant to see; examples such as the ‘flagging’ software being used in Dorset (UK) to share concerns about a child and/or their family situation has led to speedier and more appropriate responses from services[iii], a checklist in Bristol (UK) around likely exclusions for young people with learning disabilities and/or autism aimed at preventing institutionalisation, work in Bavaria[iv] (Germany) to develop more youth friendly and welcoming communities, work on early intervention and with families with a centre of inclusion in Bosnia and Herzegovnia[v], the overwhelming long term evidence of the positive impact of inclusion in schools in Finland and the USA. Well publicised evidence from USA actually demonstrating the positive impact on all children’s attainment when the school is fully inclusive[vi]
An intentionally diverse set of examples, illustrating how many people share the same concern and desire to get it right from early in a child’s life. So why is this blog relevant to what is a mostly ‘adult services’ dominated discussion, for two reasons. All these children have parents and parents are most often adults, and second most (I wish it were all) these children will become adults.
Adult services have to stop focusing simply on support to post-18 year olds and realise that they have a role in promoting good well being and mental health for parents (well documented as a challenge for those with a child with complicated support needs). A child living with their birth family or in a family will thrive.
Adult Services have to realise that one way of tackling the ever greater demands on their budgets is to positively involve themselves in the work of children’s services; an adapted home for a child can make lives easier for a family, and most likely mean the child is healthier as they grow into adulthood because they have lived with their families.
Adult Services and Children’s Services need to stop thinking ‘we can’t spend money where we don’t spend it already’, (in simple terms that means continuing to fund support that fails). Together they need to think whole people, whole person and whole family, whole community.
There are many small scale and local pieces of work being taken forward that demonstrate people’s understanding of this, for example the support offered to people by The Mayday Trust.[vii]However there is a complete lack of acknowledgement at a national level. The future of social care has be one of ‘all ages / whole people’, and the government has to take the lead (although all the innovation around the country may suggest this is the worst idea).
One final example; a south west local authority and their health partners are in the process of setting up a new ‘alliance’ for people with complex needs, mainly centred around homelessness, substance misuse, mental health and ex-offenders. However they have also included within the new specification children and young people. Children are often involved in complicated situations with parents needing support and those leaving the care system are often over represented in homelessness, mental health and substance misuse statistics. New ways of thinking are there, we just need to champion them.
The future for social care needs to be one of stepping away from age as an identifier and simply focus on:
Inclusion – in community, school, work, old age and for those who for whatever reason find themselves isolated and segregated
Independent Living for families and people – choice, control, accessibility, housing and income
Nothing about us without us – young people consistently prove the sceptics wrong, they have brilliant thoughts and ideas based on their own often traumatic and challenging life experiences – listening to them will be the first step to getting it right from the start.
A final thought, if we want to start getting it right from the start no bad place to start is how to support children and young people experience the joy of the ordinary; a joyful experience every day will make for a happier child.
Nic Crosby works with many different services, organisations and people across the UK and Europe, www.gatherbuildwork.net
Nic is a founding member of Collective Action and Support, a collective of people who want to share and use their combined skills and life/work experience to start ‘getting it right from the start’. To find out more visit: www.collectiveactionandsupport.org
[iii] Early identification system being used in Dorset
[iv] Bavarian Youth Council shares vision on successful Municipal Youth Policy for viable youth friendly communities
[v] Early Intervention and family Support – Bosnia and Herzegovina
[vi] What does research say about inclusive education?
[vii] The Mayday Trust