Demos, a leading progressive British think tank, has published an analysis of very ambitious plans to reform children’s services in the UK: The Leadership Imperative. Reforming Children’s’ Services From the Ground Up.
It will be useful to those interested in the social determinants of health and the most effective provision of social services for two reasons. First of all, it argues that the most effective way to protect and support the most vulnerable children is through integrated, accountable and comprehensive service provision. It sets out the organizational and work culture challenges that will need to be addressed to really deliver such integrated and coordinated care and support. This will be interesting to many working in the broad fields of children’s services and welfare.
Secondly it addresses the complexities of organizational change; of how developing effective, innovative and integrated delivery and planning systems is never just about developing new structures and formal accountabilities, but involves addressing professional rivalries, lack of communication across organizations, risk aversion as the operating culture of so many agencies, how to balance standards with local service flexibility, and how to support and reward innovation. It argues that:
This challenge resonates across the range of public service reform: as patterns of service provision become more diverse, with more providers and more flexible means of delivery, achieving coherence and shared objectives becomes more important, just as some of the traditional, centralized methods of control and coordination become redundant. Using leadership to help overcome professional and organizational barriers, while promoting service innovation which generates better outcomes for children, is vital.
For Ontario, such a challenge is relevant not just in children’s services, but in the development of the LHINs, primary care and other facets of health care reform.
*Bob Gardner, Director – Public Policy