Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Team Around the Child

My post on Sunday, called ECM: Brave New World, began with this diagram:

Stay safe

and went on to list all of the entities surrounding the child there, which included - closest of all - something called 'TAC', or the 'Team Around the Child'. Today I want to take a closer look at this ECM 'Team Around the Child' thing and perhaps compare it with the team around my own, real children.

The definition in the ECM glossary doesn't sound too bad:

Team Around the Child is a model of service provision in which a range of different practitioners come together to help and support an individual child.

The model does not imply a multi-disciplinary team that is located together or who work together all the time; rather, it suggests a group of professionals working together only when needed to help one particular child. In this sense, the team can be described as a 'virtual' team; in practice, practitioners will find themselves working with a range of different colleagues at different times to support different children.

The model is based on the ethos that such flexibility is essential if children's services are to be able to meet the diverse needs of each and every child. Team Around the Child places the emphasis firmly on the needs of the child, rather than on organisations or service providers.

- but I want to look a bit more closely at the term. Oh blimey - there's a whole book about it!

Team Around the Child

I'm not sure I want to look that closely. Though actually, I would quite like to read that.. but £17.99 is way out of my price bracket for a book, with my children's Ecomonic Wellbeing to think about. Maybe I'll order it from the library.

Let's have a look at the Amazon product description to get an idea of the contents:

The most important changes to children's services in the last 20 years are set to improve the outcomes of all children from their early years on. The overall aims are to tackle child poverty, improve child protection and the education and childcare for young children, to raise standards, and to provide greater support for parents in bringing up their children. Multiagency approaches will be developed to serve the needs of local children and families. This massive programme of change to children's services follows the Government's publication of the "Children Bill and Every Child Matters: Next Steps". It presents immense challenges and these rest with local government. Key to achieving the declared goals will be the 3500 Children's Centres set up across the country that will integrate provision of education, care, family support, child protection and health services. With its multi-agency focus and underpinning theoretical perspectives, this book will be of special interest to everyone involved in Children's Centres and to the increasing numbers of early years staff involved in multi-agency working and strategies: social workers, child care staff, teachers, health managers, policy makers and advisers, and the people working directly with children and their families. It will be a useful resource for academics and students in higher education. The contributors are all committed to working within a multi-agency framework to secure the well-being of young children and their families.

There you are Dani (and anyone else who thought my post on Sunday was a bit OTT): "Key to achieving the declared goals will be the 3500 Children's Centres set up across the country that will integrate provision of education, care, family support, child protection and health services." I've been reading a lot of sentences like that in the past few weeks.

The people it lists as forming part of a 'Team Around the Child' are:

  • social workers,
  • child care staff,
  • teachers,
  • health managers,
  • policy makers and advisers,
  • and the people working directly with children and their families.

[As I write this, I'm repeatedly being hassled on screen by this Zone Alarm firewall that Tom has put on my system. It keeps telling me things like: "Prevalence Reporter is trying to access the trusted zone," and giving me the option to 'allow', or 'deny'. The most annoying thing it keeps hassling me about is AVG the virus protector because I turn that off when I'm working, but it still keeps trying to access the Internet and 'trusted zone' regardless, to send information about my system. I take great pleasure in hitting 'deny' on that one, and thinking how nice it would be to have a real life ECM firewall. Perhaps we can build one?]

Anyway, I've been a parent for 20 years now and I've never needed any of the above listed people, though undeniably many people now think that they do. When I was first a parent in my twenties, the Team Around my Children, besides myself, was mainly my neighbours - a crowd of about twelve other sets of parents who all lived in the same row of houses and had similar-aged children. We were each other's mutual support system and were often in and out of one another's houses, the children like pseudo-siblings. We were lucky, I suppose, to be so placed but it wasn't something that just happened: we had to work at building friendships with each other. Breaking the ice and organising events isn't always easy, but we did it because it was good for us.

One family in the street wasn't so lucky or so involved, though. Their little girl was a little older than my eldest: about three, when we first knew her, and she would wander the back street without a parent in tow, displaying all of the 'inappropriate clothing' sort of 'When to suspect child maltreatment' signs on the NICE draft guidelines. I'm going to call her Bella in this post, though that wasn't her real name of course.

Bella's family was a bit troubled. Her dad got angry (we could all hear, just by walking past their house) and her mum was very withdrawn and seemed to pass her share of the anger onto little Bella, who was also emotionally and physically rejected every day onto the street. The family didn't mix with the rest of us, though we tried to involve them. They made it clear that our efforts were not wanted.

Nowadays, living near a situation like that, I think most people would phone Social Services who would then invade Bella's family's privacy whether they liked it or not, and try to enforce some kind of 'improvement' for her, as per the ECM framework [opens pdf]. An official 'Team Around the Child' would be created, but in those days there was no such thing and as intelligent parents we knew the potential further damage that Social Services could wreak on a family, so nobody called them about Bella.

Instead, we became the team around Bella. All of our back doors were open to her: she was welcome in every house. We fed her nutritious meals, provided her with suitable clothing, cleaned her, comforted her and included her in our children's games and other activities. Most of us even kept a spare bed for Bella, one of which she made use of when her own door was locked to her at night. Bella was more loved and cared for than a whole team of 'social workers, child care staff, teachers, health managers, policy makers and advisers, and the people working directly with children and their families' could possibly have arranged for and she was still able to stay with her parents whom she did love, she told us.

I suppose you could say that Bella was an unlucky child who happened to hit lucky with her informal 'Team Around the Child' and that most such children wouldn't be likely to find themselves in a similar position and I would agree with you, nowadays. The chances of anyone finding a whole neighbourhood full of caring, intelligent young mothers all choosing to forego paid employment so that they could look after their own children, plus anyone else's that needed it, are slim now. It's not really culturally acceptable even less so financially. A modern day Bella would be parked in the Children's Centre with all the other children, to have her 'signs of child maltreatment' duly logged in her record and officially acted upon. If she was found to be wandering the street, she would be taken into state 'care', one assumes, with few questions asked. But twenty years ago and more, what we did for Bella was not unusual or exceptional. We were just following our healthy, innate maternal and tribal instincts in a way that Bella's mother couldn't, at the time, for whatever reason. The same thing would have been happening to many other Bellas in many other communities. To this day, I still don't know a mother who could bear to leave such a child unattended, were she in a position to do otherwise.

But did this [what can only be called a] breakdown in society just happen, of its own accord, to bring us to the situation where we have need of Children's Centres and the ECM framework [opens pdf]? I don't think so. The rise in house prices which forced many mothers out to work didn't happen of its own accord, did it? It came about, as we now know, through a complicated artificial bubble of lending that the government completely failed to regulate. The more money people could access, the more vendors could ask for, and get, for their houses and the Planning Laws limited the number of new houses that could be built - and to some extent, along with the Health and Safety industry etc, set the cost of building new ones quite high. With most mothers of the house-buying classes in almost continuous full-time employment, what's left is the 'underclass' of mostly benefits-recipients in social housing who can safely be denigrated and targeted with ECM-type policy manoeuvres.

This did not happen by accident: the 'Social Exclusion' rhetoric has been gearing up to it for years, and it featured in many of the ten year-old EU documents I was reading last week. I think it's a long term plan - now almost complete - to deliberately break down the organic structures of society and replace them with artificial mechanisms of state control. The 'social research' backed it all up, saying openly that the state would have to break the natural 'bonds' of cooperation in order to impose its own artificial 'bridges'.

I was going to tell you about the current teams around my own children, but that will have to wait until tomorrow now, because we've got to leave for our home ed meeting, which actually forms part of them.

But I will just quickly tell you how Bella's story ended: happily, thank goodness. Her mum sorted herself out, split up from the angry dad - who turned out to be a stepdad - and they moved away. I saw Bella a few years ago and she's fine. Just a perfectly normal, happy person with no apparent problems. Of course, we'll never know how differently things would have turned out for her under the new regime. But they turned out just fine under the old one.


Blogger Tom said...

Official educational books are expensive and boring, both for teachers and pupils. I was bored by 'Peter and Jane' books at school.

Expensive because professionals are sometimes obliged to buy them, for courses and whatnot.

Boring because they can't claim anything new. I doubt they'd get published otherwise.

12:39 pm, February 25, 2009  
Blogger Ann-Marie Dewhurst said...

You've brought back my memories of 'Bellas'.
Interesting post, will spend the afternoon pondering on that. xx

1:32 pm, February 25, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We had a couple of lads like that before my oldest was born. They spent a lot of time in our house and when the babies arrived they joined in with lots of family activities.
We have a similar situation now-although one of the other home ed families is more front line than me.
I wrote about subsidiarity in my response - communities can and in fact need to look out for each other. Obviously not an idea the Govt likes.

Meanwhile my dh who is a nurse therapist in CAMHS has emailed me the Children Not Receiving A Suitable Education doc that was in his email on Monday morning. Funny how he got it then eh?

2:46 pm, February 25, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Bella story tears flowed!!

We live on a street like you describe, no actual Bella's but we all have our slightly crap parenting days and there are others to fill in the gaps for the kids. Safer and cheaper than wrap around care.

I thought you weren't going to find time 'till thursday!!

Spooky lego wall around the invisibile child....



4:35 pm, February 25, 2009  
Blogger these boots said...

Here in rural France it's hard to build our 'team around the child' but we are trying. I have my parents nearby, my Mum comes to hear the girls read more or less every other day ... we go and see my Dad if a scientific question comes up that needs answering. The rest of the team we need to drive to, and that takes more effort, but it's slowly happening. Slowly our home ed group (who were all a bunch of strangers to one another last May) trust the other families enough to offer to do baby sitting, shopping ... some have offered to come and take the girls out if I need to work when DH isn't here. It's slowly beginning to work. I think it's really important to try to establish a network of people who you know support, understand and empathise with your own family choices, wherever they are. And there's no way that would work as an enforced top down approach with a one size fits all mindset. There's no trust or mutual understanding there. Gill I see the Brave New World creeping in all over the place. And it keeps me awake at night. :-(

5:07 pm, February 25, 2009  
Blogger lotusbirther said...

That story reminds me of a local man, Sir Fred Hoyle, born in the Bradford district in 1915. According to a biography of his, he spent his young childhood days, aged about two, wandering the streets and lanes around his house unaccompanied.
He is worth investigating further atm as he had theories about comets and life from other planets - linking in nicely with current comet Lulin and also the recent news not only of life signs on mars (endogenous methane production) but the likelihood of alien life on earth right under our noses. He was also an opponent of the big bang theory which was reasonably unfounded but also reasonable in a more philosophical way as it is of course still just a theory.

5:51 pm, February 25, 2009  
Anonymous Ruth said...

That's what I thought too Elizabeth, very, very dehumanising cover. What's worse, they probably think that using bright Lego bricks makes it look friendly.

8:31 pm, February 25, 2009  
Blogger lotusbirther said...

Yes, I meant to agree - what a terrible choice for a cover. I find it innappropriate and disconcerting, quite distressing actually.

8:39 pm, February 25, 2009  
Blogger cosmic seed said...

I want to say something about feminism, but Icke does it so much better.

9:57 pm, February 25, 2009  
Blogger Allie said...

I've got the book here and I'll have a browse.

On the whole I think academic books are more pricey because they sell fewer copies than popular science or fiction, for example. Believe me, this one is positively cheap compared to many academic books.

11:44 pm, February 25, 2009  
Blogger Allie said...

I haven't got the time to read this whole book. But I have dipped int to several of the chapters.

This is a book of chapters by different authors, each contributing a piece from a different perspective/professional background, relating to multi-agency working. Some are broad in focus - like "Multi-agency working - the historical background" by Jenny French - and some are more specific like this case study based one, "Exploring the perspectives of early years practitioners in a newly established children's centre" by Jenny Worsley.

I think you would find this book interesting, Gill. It might be worth your trying to get hold of a copy. I'm sorry I can't supply!

BTW, Tom, there really are a lot of excellent 'educational' books out there, you know. The library I work in has a stock of about 160,000 books and though there are plenty I never really want to read (the ones on wound care are to be avoided if you don't like pictures of ulcers...) there are many, many that I can't resist picking up. I'd challenge anyone to walk around a university library and not find something they find interesting.

I won't fill your comments box with quotes, Gill. But there is stuff about much of what you have written about - albeit often from a different perspective. I found a particularly interesting piece about economic issues.

10:11 am, February 26, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Tom, I know but I would just like a peek ;-) Not at £17.99 though!

Ann-Marie, you too? I bet we've all known at least one 'Bella' in our lives.

Mum6Kids, you too? And yes, that's one very strange coincidence!

Elizabeth, no the thing I haven't yet found time for is working out how statutory ECM is so far. Yes, that is a spooky pic, isn't it? I hadn't thought about it until you said.

TheseBoots, knowing you there will be a pretty good team in place :-) Hey, don't have sleepless nights about this! We will prevail, we just need to work out how. xx

LB, he sounds extremely interesting. I'd like to find out more. Will Google.

Ruth, good point from you as usual!

Cosmic, you're quite right. I should perhaps have included that but there wasn't really room, or time. Will come back to it though and make sure it gets coverage.

Allie, aargh! Now I *really* want to read it! xx

10:47 am, February 26, 2009  
Anonymous Sam said...

I've just seen where the Lego wall comes from..

6:03 pm, February 27, 2009  

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