The focus on partnership working is not surprising given the long list of high profile failures to adequately ‘join-up’ policy and practice.
(Percy-Smith, 2005, p. 1)
Victoria Climbié died on 25 February 2000, ‘the victim of almost unimaginable cruelty’ (DoH, 2003, p. 1). Her aunt and her aunt’s boyfriend were convicted of her murder a year later. The inquiry that followed found a catalogue of systemic failures, poor professional practice, and poor leadership and management at a senior level, including a ‘dreadful state of communications’ within and between agencies (DoH, 2003, p. 9), failures of record keeping and information sharing, lack of clear protocols between agencies, a failure to follow procedures, and confusions about responsibilities. It also highlighted poor relationships between staff from different agencies, a failure to understand each other’s role, barriers to communication created by the stereotypes different agencies had of each other, and agencies working to different agendas.
Lord Laming identified a need for fundamental change in the way that services for children and young people were delivered. Every Child Matters took up and developed this agenda – and the ‘5 ECM outcomes’ became a strong driving force in practice with young people in England.
Youth Matters (DfES, 2005) continued the ECM agenda, focusing particularly on the need to develop a coherent system of support for young people. Again, it highlighted the need for close working and collaboration across different agencies working with young people, including public sector, voluntary and community sector, and private, organisations. It placed a particular emphasis on supporting the needs of young people who were most at risk and who had the most complex needs, through the development of integrated youth support services and the role of the ‘lead professional’.
Policy and practice in relation to partnership working and work with young people have taken a different direction since the election of the Coalition Government in 2010 and are increasingly different in different parts of the UK.
In England, as a result of changes in government policy and the global economic downturn, Alison Gilchrist observes:
… it appears that formal partnerships are losing significance in terms of strategic planning and resource allocation. The Localism Act 2012 downplays their role, scarcely mentioning the word ‘partnership’, and in many areas local strategic partnerships (LSPs) are being dismantled or becoming platforms for sharing data and airing views between different local government departments, other statutory services and the private sector. In the future, they are likely to have an increasing focus on enterprise and commissioning.
(Gilchrist, 2013, p. 124)
Cuts in funding for public services have also had a particular impact on youth services, with the BBC reporting that spending on youth services in England had fallen by 36 per cent between 2012 and 2014 (BBC News, 2014).
In other parts of the UK, policy has taken a somewhat different direction. In Wales, for example, the National Youth Work Strategy for Wales 2014–2018 highlights the role that youth work has to play in supporting young people to achieve their full potential, and the importance of partnership and collaboration between different organisations providing services for young people:
… statutory and voluntary providers need to take their collaborative working to new levels, maximising the impact of limited resources and presenting a high-quality and coherent offer to young people.
(Welsh Government, 2014, p. 2)
The Strategy also states that the Welsh Government wants to see a strengthening of the strategic relationship between youth work organisations and formal education, identifying that ‘Youth work interventions have been shown to have a positive effect on formal education outcomes, behaviour, attendance and progression through key points of transition’ (Welsh Government, 2014, p. 3).
In Scotland, policy continues to highlight the importance of effective partnership working in the delivery of services for children, young people and families and also sees youth work as having an important role to play in supporting young people’s learning and achievement. ‘Getting it Right for Every Child’ (GIRFEC) (2012) is a key policy initiative which is shaping and influencing policy, practice and legislation affecting children, young people and families at the time of writing. It emphasises the need for practitioners to work together, including ‘across organisational boundaries and putting children and their families at the heart of decision making’, in order to give children and young people ‘the best possible start in life’ (The Scottish Government, 2012, p. 4).
Social policy is constantly changing; it is work in progress and subject to change as government changes. As we have seen, policy is also different across different areas of the United Kingdom, a trend which is likely to increase. Rather than provide you with a comprehensive guide to social policy, therefore, we indicate the need for you to be sufficiently informed about it to be able to take a critical stance