Merton's children's services shaped by users
Merton’s Children’s Trust User Voice Strategy 2014-16 implements one of the core ambitions of Merton’s Children’s Trust – Demonstrating that the views and ambitions of children and young people have informed and improved our service offer.
Under the strategy we provide an annual review of activity with a focus on that which has had a positive impact on practice, and on service developments within Merton’s children’s services.
The 'User Voice Strategy end of year review 2016/17' demonstrates that we are able, again this year, to report on user voice activity which has involved each of the vulnerable cohorts identified as priorities in the Children and Young People’s Plan. And, we are also able to include an overview of how other Children’s Trust services - Public Health, CAMHS, Central London Community Health Trust, schools, the Police, and commissioned services - have embedded ‘user voice’ into their work to ensure that children, young people and their families’ voices inform how support is planned and delivered.
All service areas across Merton’s Children, Schools and Families Department, have committed to and undertaken user voice activity during 2016/17, under the five commitments detailed in the User Voice Strategy 2014-16. To follow is a summary of progress this year under each of the five commitments:
Ongoing practice approach expected of all practitioners to put children’s wishes and feelings at the centre of decision making and planning
This year we have further embedded our commitment to ensure that, through their everyday practice, practitioners and managers put children’s and families’ wishes and feelings at the centre of decision making and planning about their care. We have formulated and embedded ‘Merton’s Practice Model for Social Work’ along with a programme of skills training in methods which facilitate this approach, which aims to deliver services which are child and family led and responsive to the needs of the people they serve. In addition, we have refreshed our Quality Assurance Framework which aims to evaluate and continuously improve the ‘practice model’, supporting the development of ‘a culture which values learning from frontline practice and the lived experiences of children and families’.
Through a range of processes - children and families participation in the Child Protection Conference process support by 'Signs of Safety; young people's participation in LAC reviews through the new 'Merton Model of LAC reviews', and through the support of the commissioned advocacy services; support for families who are going through the Education, Health and Care Plan process - we have ensured a child and family centre approach to everyday practice.
Providing opportunities for children and young people to influence key decision makers.
This year, our commitment to providing a range of participation opportunities for all children and young people has been further enhanced by the launch of the new dedicated Young People’s Participation and Engagement Service. The service has implemented a new strategy which will modernise our existing ‘participation promise’, implement a structure to increase the accessibility of participation opportunities, deliver guidance and training to the borough’s youth organisations to ensure that they deliver ‘ethical and meaningful’ participation, and improve evaluation and quality assurance processes to ensure the continuous improvement of participation activity across the borough.
Through a range of young people’s forums/groups, including - Merton Youth Parliament, Young Inspectors, Pollard’s Hill Youth Committee, and school based ‘pupil voice’ activities - youth led conferences; and ‘positive activities’ groups including Merton Police Cadets - Merton’s young people have influenced a range of issues which affect youngsters lives. And, through a range of research, consultations and surveys this year young people have raised issues and fed back ideas which are being used to inform a number of key strategic action plans.
Understand what our feedback from users is telling us to continuously improve services.
This year our commitment to enabling children, young people and families who are users of children’s services, to influence improvements to systems, has been further embedded. A dedicated Participation Manager is now in place to support a range of opportunities for looked after children (LAC) and care leavers. And, we have drafted a ‘Participation Framework for Commissioned Services’ which will increase the capacity of our commissioned services to implement, monitor and evaluate their user voice activity, ensuring that it has a positive impact on the young people they support.
Through a range of user forums (including the Children in Care Council, Young People’s Group for LAC and Care Leavers, Youth Justice Youth Board, Transforming Families parent forum and the Merton Kids First Forum); consultations and surveys; satisfaction feedback processes; and taking part in recruitment and training processes, we have ensured that users are central to informing developments in children's services systems and processes.
Publish and share our feedback findings across the children’s workforce.
This year, our commitment to publish and share our feedback findings across the children’s workforce has been enhanced by broadening our information gathering on user voice activity, to all parts of the Children’s Trust – Merton Public Health, CAMHS, the community health provider, schools, Police, and commissioned services - and ensuring that this information is included in all reporting activity.
This year, an average of 8-10 articles on user voice activity have been included in each of the bi-monthly editions of Young Merton Together online magazine which published for all organisations in the borough working with children and young people. Articles cover all types of user voice activity including practice, young people’s participation, and children’s services user feedback. The aim is to ensure that learning from user voice activity is shared and used to inform service planning and delivery across all services.
Demonstrate to those who participate in user voice activity the impact of their involvement.
Throughout the year we have continued to ‘complete the feedback loop to those who participate in user voice activities’ by sharing with participants who share their views, what has happened to their input. Notable examples of this include: the online published results from the Children’s Centres community consultation, and the new service offer; foster carer recruitment events which involve foster carers sharing their experience of being a foster carer; South West London Adoption Consortium newsletter which regularly includes feedback from adopters on their experiences; the Merton’s Kids First newsletter which includes articles on the outcomes of participation meetings and events; and the Project Search employment and training programme newsletter written by the young participants of the programme, who feedback information about their successes and challenges.
In addition, we have continued to ensure that service users have access to complaints processes in order for us to address their individual concerns, and to make any necessary changes to improve the experience of services for all users. Examples of this include Merton’s Children’s Schools and Families Department quarterly complaints reports which are analysed by senior managers to inform priorities for developments in practice and process. And, CLCH’s dedicated Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) which provides information, support and signposting to help to resolve any concerns highlighted by users.
For more information on Merton's approach to 'user voice' contact the Head of Service for Policy, Planning and Performance: firstname.lastname@example.org.