Calderdale's children’s services sets out its priorities for the next six months
From implementing an education COVID recovery plan to addressing holiday hunger, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet has set out its priorities for children and young people during the next six months.
Calderdale Council’s Cabinet member for Children and Young People, Coun Adam Wilkinson (Lab, Sowerby Bridge) said other important issues which also needed addressing included digital poverty, early years’ children missing out on socialisation because of the COVID-19 pandemic, planning school places to take into account new homes which might be built and improving outcomes for children with special education needs.
He told members of the council’s Children and Young People’s Services Scrutiny Board the COVID-19 pandemic had affected children’s lives.
“Unfortunately, it is the most vulnerable children that tend to have suffered and fallen back the most in terms of their learning and well-being,” he said.
Recovering from that lost learning and dealing with well-being issues will be crucial, said Coun Wilkinson.
The Government was expected to unveil a long term plan before the summer holidays but Calderdale was already working with schools to enable them to be in the best position to meet the challenges, he said.
A long-term plan working with school clusters would use evidence-based interventions to help recover lost learning, also acknowledging the need to balance catch-up with well-being and mental health issues.
The council would continue working with partners including the Community Foundation for Calderdale and The Piece Hall to tackle “holiday hunger” and officers were working with the council’s digital transformation team to see how any remaining digital poverty could be tackled, following on from the council’s laptops and broadband campaign.
“The pandemic has shown children can often work well remotely if they have the equipment and the broadband to do so – we still need to reduce inequalities,” said Coun Wilkinson.
He said early years children missing out on socialisation, such as not seeing other children or being unable to meet grandparents, was poignant.
“When we talk about the first five years of a child’s life being the most important, a massive proportion of their lives has been during the pandemic,” said Coun Wilkinson.
Ensuring enough school places were available was even more challenging in light of possible building under a Local Plan, if approved, with secondary school plans for Brighouse underway but increasing primary provision there an issue along with both primary and secondary education in north Halifax.
Director of Children and Young People’s Services, Julie Jenkins, outlined service priorities including investing in more residential care for children, ensuring many of those who needed to be looked after by the council could remain close to home, recruiting more foster carers and tackling domestic abuse with the help of £455,000 grant money.
Issues councillors raised included improving learning impairment, services, better meeting special needs and tackling dentistry issues.