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Call for evidence

Call for evidence

On 13 November 2020 the House of Lords Select Committee on Public Services published its first report, ‘A critical juncture for public services: lessons from COVID-19’.

This wide-ranging report included a number of findings on children and public services:

  • A historical lack of support for early intervention and preventative services has widened the education attainment gap for disadvantaged children and led many families – struggling with addiction, domestic violence and mental health – to “crisis point”.
  • Inadequate integration between public services has meant that vulnerable children do not receive the support that they need. Many are “invisible” to public services.
  • Public services working with children and families are often unwilling or unable to share data, and struggle to understand the legal basis for sharing information about vulnerable children. These factors have restricted public services’ ability to collaborate and fulfil their legal duty to share data to keep children safe.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic the crisis in child vulnerability accelerated, and the number of vulnerable children “invisible” to services increased significantly.

Our second major inquiry, ‘The role of public services in addressing child vulnerability’ will follow up on these concerns and ask whether reforming public services can address the growing problem of child vulnerability. The inquiry will cover how public services support mothers and families during pregnancy, and how they support children in their early years and school years.

The inquiry will focus on public services for children, parents, guardians and families in England. In Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, responsibility for many public services rests with the devolved administrations, and it is the role of the devolved parliaments to scrutinise public services there. However, the Committee hopes to learn from best practice in the devolved jurisdictions, both to draw comparisons and apply lessons learnt.

What we want to learn from you

The inquiry will consider public services in the broadest possible sense – we will explore community-level initiatives and the role of the private, voluntary and charitable sectors in the delivery of services to children and families. The Committee is especially interested in collaboration, or lack thereof, between local authorities, social services, the voluntary sector, the NHS, the education sector, the police and other public services working with children and families.

The Committee recognises that child vulnerability comes in many forms, and our focus includes, but is not limited to:

  • Children with special educational needs, disabilities and/or poor mental or physical health;
  • Young carers;
  • Children at risk of or experiencing neglect or abuse;
  • Children living in homes where domestic abuse is taking place and/or where parents are suffering from mental ill health or addiction;
  • Children living in deprivation;
  • Children without access to digital technologies;
  • Children in the care system;
  • Children at risk of or experiencing criminal exploitation, for example involvement in gangs;
  • Children experiencing homelessness or poor housing conditions;
  • Children at risk of any other serious harm.

Diversity comes in many forms, and hearing different perspectives means that committees are better informed and can more effectively scrutinise public policy and legislation. They can undertake their role most effectively when they hear from a wide range of individuals, sectors or groups affected by a particular policy or piece of legislation. We encourage anyone with experience of or expertise in the issues under investigation – particularly those working directly with children and families or frontline services – to share their views with the Committee, in the full knowledge that their views have value and are welcome.

We would also like to encourage anyone to get in touch who can support the Committee to take evidence from vulnerable children and their families.

How to submit evidence

Information on how to submit evidence is set out in the annex below. If you have any questions or require adjustments to enable you to respond, please contact the Committee team at HLPUBLICSERVICES@parliament.uk

The following questions are intended to provide a framework for those who wish to offer their views. You need not answer all the questions, just those that are relevant.

It is helpful if opinions are supported by factual evidence and examples where appropriate. Comparisons with practice in the devolved administrations and other countries are particularly welcome.

The deadline for written evidence submissions is Friday 23 April 2021.

The Committee is seeking input on the following questions:

  1. How is child vulnerability best defined?
  2. How well do public services address underlying causes of child vulnerability within families, such as domestic abuse, mental ill health and addiction?
  3. How should central Government coordinate public services to support vulnerable children to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic?
  4. How well does central Government coordinate the activities of the various Government departments working with vulnerable children, parents, guardians and families?
  5. How should central Government work with public service providers to integrate public services to meet the needs of vulnerable children, parents, guardians and families?
  6. Do vulnerable children, parents, guardians and families receive sufficient support from early intervention and preventative services? If not, how might such support be improved? Can early intervention and prevention deliver more efficient and effective public services?
  7. At the local level, where does responsibility rest for addressing cross-cutting issues that affect children’s vulnerability, such as parental mental health, addiction and domestic abuse issues? How are those who are responsible for such issues held to account, and how might such accountability be improved?
  8. What practical steps can the Government and providers of public services take to encourage different agencies – such as NHS bodies, councils, schools and the police – to share data that helps keep vulnerable children safe, and to support early intervention and preventative services?
  9. How effectively do statutory services collaborate with the voluntary sector and community groups to support vulnerable children and their families? Could such collaboration be improved?
  10. The Government has stated its ambition to ‘level-up’ underperforming regions. How could the Government’s ‘levelling-up’ agenda address regional and local disparities in children’s education, health and wellbeing outcomes?

The Committee is interested in hearing about policy responses to the problems facing vulnerable children, parents, guardians and families. Please include practical solutions to the issues that you identify in your written evidence.

 

ANNEX: Guidance for submissions

Written submissions should be submitted online, as a Word document, using the written submission form available here: https://committees.parliament.uk/submission/#/evidence/408/preamble 

If you have difficulty submitting online, please contact the Committee staff by email at HLPUBLICSERVICES@parliament.ukThe deadline for written evidence is Friday 23 April 2021.

When preparing your response, please bear in mind that short, concise submissions are preferred. Responses should not be longer than five sides of A4 and should include a summary. Paragraphs should be numbered.

All submissions made through the written submission form will be acknowledged automatically by email.

The Committee cannot accept anything which has not been prepared specifically in response to this call for evidence, or which has been published elsewhere.

Evidence which is accepted by the Committee may be published online at any stage; when it is so published it becomes subject to parliamentary copyright and is protected by parliamentary privilege.

If the evidence is accepted you will receive a second email. At this point you may publicise or publish your evidence yourself. In doing so you must indicate that it was prepared for the House of Lords Public Services Committee, and you should be aware that your publication or re-publication of the evidence may not be protected by parliamentary privilege.

Personal contact details will be removed from evidence before publication, but will be retained by the Committee Office and used for specific purposes relating to the Committee’s work – for instance to seek additional information.

People who submit written evidence may be invited to give oral evidence. Oral evidence is usually given on Zoom and broadcast online; transcripts are produced and published online. Those eople invited to give oral evidence will be notified separately of the procedure to be followed and the topics likely to be discussed.

Substantive communications to the Committee about the inquiry should be addressed through the Clerk of the Committee, whether or not they are intended to constitute formal evidence to the Committee.

This is a public call for evidence. Please bring it to the attention of other groups and individuals who may not have received a copy directly.

You may follow the progress of the inquiry at https://committees.parliament.uk/work/1049/the-role-of-public-services-in-addressing-child-vulnerability/

This call for written evidence has now closed.

Go back to The role of public services in addressing child vulnerability Inquiry