children’s services in the Borders underwent major changes last year to combine resources and expertise in an integrated children’s service with offices in five Borders towns including Duns.
When the new services became fully operational in February last year Scottish Borders councillors asked for a report after the year was up to see how things were going - and that report went before them last week.
Significant financial pressures haven’t helped the situation but overall most of the organisations involved in providing the integrated children’s service feel the changes have been positive although many teachers remain to be convinced.
A reduction in the number of senior teaching posts and the establishment of joint headships eg Coldstream and Eccles, Greenlaw and Swinton, and Ayton and Reston was one of the changes introduced by SBC, a move opposed by many in the teaching profession.
School staff, NHS Borders staff, police and voluntary sector are all involved in working with council social work and education staff but when questioned on how they feel things are going of the 82 respondents (39 of them from mainstream school), 59 per cent felt that the delivery of services was less effective under the new model, although almost 70 per cent of respondents agreed that they now know who to contact within ICS staff and appreciated the quality of help they received from them.
One respondent said: “Far less meetings, genuine partner working with health and social work with education, one phone call for assistance, prompt and effective support from social work, and from the mental health worker to deepen teacher understanding of some mental health issues.”
In her report to councillors head of integrated children’s services, Stella Everingham said: “There was a clear distinction between the experience of mainstream schools and that of other service partners in the delivery of ICS services.
“A review of the delivery model for additional support learning within schools is planned for 2011 in order to help address this discrepancy.”
“All partners cite bureaucracy and a lack of effective communication as the biggest difficulties with the new integrated service and this feedback has been taken on board by the management team.”
Ms Everingham concluded: “While six months worth of data is clearly insufficient to draw any significant conclusions about the success of a major service structure such as integrated children’s services, it does give an indication of where structures and processes are working and where more effort requires to be focused.”