Investment welcome. Innovation vital.

October 22, 2010 at 2:56 pm 1 comment

by Claire McEneaney

Following this week’s spending review, we were pleased to see a commitment from Chancellor George Osborne to protect Sure Start in ‘cash terms’ and to return its focus to ‘its original purpose’.  Investment in early years and early intervention should be welcomed, alongside the commitment to helping the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children in our society. However, continued investment is not the only puzzle piece needed. We must do things differently if we are to have real impact.

We know that when Sure Start reaches the most deprived families and young children, it can have a very real and positive impact on life chances. At present, this doesn’t happen often enough. The poverty gap has widened over the last decade and it is those who need help the most that traditional institutional services are still struggling to reach. We know from our work, that many families often view some services as stigmatising and judgemental. Service models must change if we want to engage them in good quality interactions and interventions that we know can change their lives. We have to do things differently – more of the same will not solve these issues.

As part of its Radical Efficiency programme, the Innovation Unit is working with NESTA on Transforming Early Years – a project working with 6 localities across England. Each site is committed to changing their model of early years provision to be different: better for families and young children, and to operate at much lower cost.

We are now beginning to see what different might look like. Sites have been brainstorming and testing out new ideas for service models in the last two months. These ideas are informed by the insights they have been gathering, through deep conversations with their community, and investigating the resources that are available in the system.

Emerging ideas for solutions focus around 6 themes:

  • better use of existing community spaces, making them welcoming and multi-functional
  • peer support for parents and families, with parents working together to build skills, capabilities and confidence
  • community panels commissioning new services by creating community funds to support social enterprise
  • giving communities the opportunity to design and run their own services, creating greater ownership and encouraging engagement
  • use existing connections to services to create easy, automatic routes to other people who can help
  • enabling community members to share their existing expertise, learn new skills, and increase their self-worth, through creating community skills and jobs banks

All these fit with David Cameron’s vision of the Big Society – fewer services run and managed solely by the state.  These ideas entail more community involvement and ownership, in spaces that make sense to people, working with individuals they respect and trust. Whilst community involvement is critical to the success of these new models, there is a balance to be struck between where you utilise parents and peers, and where you use the skills and experience that professionals hold. These new models would allow professionals to be deployed more strategically, in areas and at times where they can be most useful.

Only by building lasting community change can we hope to support families from the most deprived communities, in a way that is sustainable and so they can be more resilient. We need to use the highly welcome and critical investment in Sure Start to support communities to build services that really engage the people we most want to help, and ultimately build a better future for their children.


Entry filed under: Education & Children's Services, Innovation Policy, Local Authorities, Local Innovation, Public Services, Radical Efficiency.

Innovation in Education just got 30% cheaper! #iie10 CSR presents an opportunity to be radical

1 Comment Add your own

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

The Innovation Unit website

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 29 other followers


Twitter Updates

Follow innovation_unit on Twitter

%d bloggers like this: