Together for Children – achieving the impossible

September 7, 2021

When hearing children’s voices makes your organisation outstanding!

Six years ago we met the people of Together for Children Sunderland. Since then we have been proud to been on their journey with them. Together for Children is one of the longest standing members of our community since they joined us in 2017. The best bit is that the journey has always felt like a true partnership. They were the first organisation to use Express, they consistently help us co-produce changes to the digital participation tools with their young people and they helped us to ensure the data is completely fit for purpose.

Listening to children is central to all service improvements

In the last three years we’ve watched Together for Children transform their service to children from ‘inadequate’ to one that is now deemed ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. The Ofsted report states that Together for Children has made a ‘highly impressive improvement’ – we have always been impressed by their practice and by their highly committed and child-focussed staff. We’ve been saying it for years, suddenly now everyone believes us! Never before has any children’s services improved their services so radically they have moved from ‘inadequate’ to ‘outstanding’. We love that the staff at Together for Children were described by Ofsted as tenacious because that’s how we have always experienced them.

Children direct the interventions

Not once were children’s voices deprioritised because of other ‘more pressing’ matters. What could be more pressing than enabling children and young people to have a say in their lives? Ofsted highlighted that “tenacious staff work tirelessly to ensure that children are at the centre of all work and interventions” and that “children direct the interventions”. This last point really resonated with us. Sometimes we experience children’s voices being seen as the role of the participation service. Something that is done ‘over there’ if you like. This is not the case in the best services though; in those participation runs through their life blood. From the moment the child steps through the front door of Early Help to when they reach adulthood they are being supported to leave and have successful outcomes.

Children’s voices resound within records and clearly inform future planning

Often overlooked, we know how important those records are later in life to help young adults understand their lived experiences and develop a strong sense of self. Remember the powerful words of Cameron in his short presentation from this year’s VoxCon.

One of my favourite lines from their Ofsted report completely sums up what we have seen over the years:

There is a palpable sense across the council that cared for children and care experienced young people are ‘our children’.

You can read more about the brilliant achievements of our friends and colleagues in Together for Children Sunderland here.

Last word

I spent over 25 years working to improve children’s social care in a number of different children’s services, so I am aware of how challenging it can be to turn services around when they are in difficulty . All of us at Mind Of My Own are so proud to have been part of this journey but I will leave the last word to their wonderful CEO, Jill:

Mind Of My Own played a big part of us evidencing children’s inclusion in their plans and interventions and has improved services without a shadow of a doubt.