London’s fragmented early years support system means many families are at risk from not accessing the right support at the right time, a new report by Isos Partnership commissioned by London Councils has revealed.
Currently in many areas of London it is extremely challenging for families to navigate their way through the early years system. Services such as maternity, health visiting, primary care services, social care, childcare and targeted early years support often do not link up. This creates a fragmented system where professionals miss opportunities to provide support and secure better long-term outcomes for families, particularly for those from more disadvantaged backgrounds.
The report, “Beyond Boundaries”, identified a wide variety of obstacles getting in the way of joined up services for children. These include capacity, cultural barriers, shifting landscapes including borough boundaries for services and technical difficulties which include a lack of information on sharing systems or rules locally.
The report makes recommendations to address these challenges at a local level, across London, and nationally. It recommends a stronger culture of sharing information and collaborative work across boundaries; this is important in particular for families who move around or do not live their lives within borough borders. The report also calls for strategic leaders across London to come together to establish common early years service practice for London, to create joint solutions and to speak with a more coherent voice to partners in health and government.
London Councils also plans to develop a self-evaluation tool to enable local authorities and their partners to progress better join up across their local early years system and develop a common agenda for change.
Cllr Ian Edwards, London Councils’ Executive Member for Children and Young People, said:
“Joined-up early years services have the potential to transform lives at an important stage of child development, but this report shows that there is still fragmentation in the system which means children and families may not receive all the help they need.
“While we are not looking for one way of integrating the early years system, as we know that each area is responding to different local needs, more could be done at a local level to assist better join up of local early years services.
“Boroughs and our partners in health and education must put the lived experiences of children and families front and centre when discussing how to join up these services. By fostering a good culture of working across professional boundaries and helping to reduce the gaps by sharing information in a useful, effective way, we can help to make sure every child has access to the support they need and has the best start in life.”
Notes to editors:
1) Isos Partnership set about exploring current forms of integration across pre-birth to five services in London, drawing out learning through a mixed method approach. The local authority was their primary lens but they have focused equally on the join up across health and voluntary and private sectors.
They reviewed literature on integrated services, interviewed regional and national experts, surveyed all London local authorities (with an 81% response rate), analysed national children’s centre data and conducted fieldwork interviews, workshops and focus groups with senior and strategic leaders and professionals across a mixed sample of eight local authorities across the city - including five areas in-depth. They also spoke to small groups of parents through online workshops and visited drop-in sessions.
2) To read the report in full, please visit the London Councils website