Victory for children is all that matters
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
CYP Now does not support any particular political party. This title's instincts are, and always will be, driven by what best serves the interests of children, young people and their families.
In terms of this service, Labour's record in investment and putting children at the heart of policy though the Every Child Matters reforms is commendable. But Labour rule has also been an era of micro-management, excessive regulation and guidance, and an obsession with accountability expressed through a minefield of targets, indicators and an over-bearing inspections system.
Paperwork and processes have threatened to take practitioners away from their vocational calling on the frontline. Policy has usually been well-intentioned. But its sheer scale has made it overwhelming and at times counter-productive for those who have to implement it.
All this is grist to the mill for the Conservatives, who promote a vision of a "post-bureaucratic age", where professionals are trusted to take responsibility and don't have to watch their backs. A smaller state with fewer IT systems and quangos, and a narrower inspections system would for them help to realise this vision.
Politicians always claim they can slash waste, during good times and bad. But in this time, where there is intense pressure on public spending, the Tories have set about their mission to cut bureaucracy with an ideological zeal. Their voracious appetite to gobble up red tape might in some cases be counter to sound management and economics, and crucially, act against children's interests. Proposals to remove obligations for local areas to set up children's trusts and publish children and young people's plans, plus various moves to reduce focus on wellbeing, are cases in point. After all, shadow children's secretary Michael Gove has cited "bureaucracy" as the prime justification here. But collaboration through joint working achieves efficiencies and secures better outcomes for the young. That is not bureaucratic. Any efforts to reduce bureaucracy need to be done with pragmatism and care.
So whatever we all wake up to on 7 May - whether it is a clear change of government, the beginning of the wheeling and dealing of a hung parliament where the Liberal Democrats hold the balance of power, or even a fourth Labour term — we must never lose sight of our guiding principle: to put the interests of our nation's children and young people first.
Ravi Chandiramani is editor of Children & Young People Now