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Progress towards improved services for children 22 February 2008

MINISTER for Education Anne Craine MHK today issued an update on progress the Government is making towards the integration of children’s services.

Mrs Craine said agreement had been reached about how best to develop services under the evolving role of Minister for Education and Children.

The 2006 report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Care of Young People included the recommendation that the Government improves the co-ordination of services it provides for children.

In May 2007, a Council of Ministers’ report on the progress made on implementing the Commission of Inquiry’s 132 recommendations agreed that the role of the Minister for Education would be extended to that of Minister for Education and Children. The report received Tynwald’s support.

In December 2007, the Council of Ministers agreed a draft implementation plan for the integration of children’s services, which tasked the Departments of Education, Home Affairs and Health and Social Security with working together to bring about change.

Responsibility for youth justice has been vested in the Minister for Home Affairs. The Minister for Health and Social Security has political responsibility for child protection, with the Minister for Education and Children having a co-ordinating role in ensuring children remain safe and well cared for and can flourish.

As a next step, a Children’s Plan will now be produced by seeking the views of children, their families and carers, officials in the Departments of Education, Health and Social Security and Home Affairs, the voluntary sector and the community.

It is envisaged that the initial plan will be published in August 2008. It will provide, for the first time, a single, over-arching plan for all services affecting children and young people on the Island, Mrs Craine said today.

It will be tailored around the Government’s five priority outcomes for children as set out in its 2005-2010 Strategy for Children and Young People: Staying safe, being healthy, enjoying and achieving, making a positive contribution and prospering.

Legislation to support the changes will be introduced into the House of Keys. Its progression is seen as a priority, Mrs Craine said. A key element of the change is the appointment of a Children’s Commissioner, who will oversee the rights and best interests of children and handle complaints. An online directory of children’s services is also being created and is likely to go live this autumn.

Work has been ongoing on integrating children’s services since last summer, when five seminars, chaired by the Education Minister, were held Island-wide. They yielded nearly 100 volunteers who said they were willing to help drive the integration of services forward.

The volunteers will now start work on identifying the processes needed to integrate services and will also seek the views of children and young people to include in the Children’s Plan.

Mrs Craine said:

‘Much development is still required, but it is envisaged that, through the redirection of resources, from extensive consultation with children and their families and carers and through the commitment of staff of the Government and other agencies, a real difference can be made for the benefit of children.’

She added:

‘We hope children, their families and carers, all Government staff and those working for other agencies will contribute to bring about a real improvement for all children.’

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