Due to essential maintenance, the following systems will be unavailable until 7.00am on Thursday 18 August: our online council tax, business rates and housing benefit overpayments service and our welfare assistance form. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
Consultation on our Children, Young People and Families' Strategy 2022-2025
Consultation on our Children, Young People and Families' Strategy 2022-2025
We want to work with you to make County Durham an even better home for children, young people and families.
How you can help
Working with what we already know, we have come up with seven areas we think need our attention, as well as an overall vision of what we hope to achieve (see more details below).
We need you to tell us if we're on the right track and if we've missed anything. This is your chance to make sure we are working on the things that are important to you and your family.
The closing date for comments was 5.00pm on Wednesday 10 August 2022.
A bit more detail
We already have a Children and Young People's Strategy, but this runs out at the end of 2022 - so we need a new one.
We want to make sure the new strategy considers the challenges that families are facing as a result of the global pandemic, and the current cost of living crisis.
Working with you and for you
Since the beginning of the year, we've been working with children, young people and family groups, the voluntary and community sector, and children's services professionals to create a new strategy called 'Growing up in County Durham'.
Looking at what people have told us and putting it together with the facts and figures from Durham Insight*, has helped us decide what we need to focus on to support our children and young people to thrive.
*Durham Insight provides access to information, data and research about what it is like to live in County Durham.
What we're focusing on
Family, friends and community
We know that where you live, both your home and your community is very important. Family relationships, in whatever form, and a safe, loving and supportive home environment are key.
You said having friends and living in a community with good support networks and infrastructure, which you can easily be part of is what you want, where there's things for children and young people to do, green spaces to play and good access to services and transport links.
You said we need to make sure that all mums, dads and carers have opportunities to access support services as there are many different family setups nowadays.
We are also facing some challenges, for example the number of children and young people coming into our care continues to rise and support services, including accommodation, are struggling to cope with demand.
We know being and feeling safe at home, at school or college and when you are out and about is important and that having safe spaces to meet and play, both in the real world and online whether that's websites, gaming or social media sites is part of this.
Making our communities clean and free from anti-social behaviour, where criminal activity is low and where there is mutual trust / respect and citizenship is what we are all striving for.
We know that providing fairer opportunities to access services, by targeting support to those most in need, will help improve prospects for all our children and young people.
For example, we will continue to focus on providing children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) the best opportunities in life through our SEND Strategy and Plan.
Another priority is how we deal with the impacts of long term financial hardship (or poverty as you might hear it referred to). These include poorer physical and mental health and more limited access to learning and leisure opportunities. County Durham has some of the worst health inequalities in the country and the proportion of children who live in poverty in the County is significantly higher than elsewhere.
Now, many more families are struggling to pay their household bills (food, heating, water, rent/mortgage, council tax) due to the current cost of living crisis and there is increasing demand for money advice services, foodbanks and other community support. You have also told us you are worried about the current crisis and how it will affect you as you grow up.
Learning and skills development
We know that from birth through to adulthood, learning and skills development is essential. Developing early childhood skills before the age of two, such as play and socialising with other children, being ready for school at five, and then primary, secondary and further education and/or employment schemes/apprenticeships are all key to accessing a happy and prosperous future.
You have told us that parent and toddler groups and parenting skills programmes are critical at the start of life. As children get older, you have told us that developing emotional and life skills, such as confidence, citizenship, financial budgeting and cooking are important, alongside education and careers advice, ensuring young people grow up to be resilient and responsible adults able to cope with what life brings them.
Impact of Covid-19
We know the impact of Covid 19 on children and young people has been huge. Children and young people have missed out on so much in the two years of the pandemic - toddler groups, nursery, school, friendship groups, out of school clubs and activities. This has meant that many opportunities to socialise and develop in the usual way have been missed and it has had a significant impact on their learning and mental health which requires additional support from professionals.
It has been reported in various studies that children's physical activity levels have also declined because of the pandemic. Again, support is needed to help children back to pre-pandemic activity levels.
Covid has also put pressure on support services such as mental health. The reasons are twofold - services were put on hold or diverted during the pandemic, which has caused a backlog and there has also been an increase in demand for these services as an impact of the pandemic. The scale and type of support needed to manage those children and young people with Long Covid is still emerging.
We know that children and young people are needing more support than ever for their emotional wellbeing. According to a recent parliamentary report in November 2021, one in six young people are now likely to experience poor mental health, compared to one in nine pre-pandemic.
You have told us that the challenges of lockdown, school studies, exam stress, peer pressure, social media, loneliness, worries about the environment, climate change, cost of living and the war in Ukraine are reasons for your anxiety and stress. There was a feeling that school or college might not always be able to provide the support for emotional wellbeing needed.
Parental mental health was also cited as an important issue by parents and carers.
Our recent 2022 Student Voice survey also highlighted high numbers of children at primary and secondary school getting less than eight hours sleep per night.
We need to meet the challenge of the increasing need for support at all levels whether that's availability of advice and guidance in schools and colleges and other settings such as youth clubs, through to more focused support for those who need it, via services such as CAMHS.
Access to services
We know that providing children, young people and families with access to good quality local services which are designed round their needs will support the best outcomes for them, so we need to ensure that we involve you in shaping the services we deliver.
We also know that providing early enough support to children and young people who need it will reduce the need for crisis interventions and improve outcomes for all involved.
You have told us that being able to deal with often complex systems, delivered by more than one agency can be confusing, so providing clear information and pathways into services is critical to ensuring you can make informed decisions, no matter the circumstances.
You have also told us about issues where you have had to deal with different people from different agencies, so providing a consistent source of support is important.
You mentioned that travel to access services is sometimes an issue due to the large and rural nature of the county and that services are not always available at a time to suit you.
Our draft vision - what we hope to achieve
"County Durham has strong connected communities and services that support children, young people and their families as they grow up to be safe, happy, healthy and achieving and which gives them fairer access to opportunities to be resilient and thrive."
What happens with your feedback?
We will continue to work with local people and organisations to find out what is important to them.
All of the feedback will be put together to help us complete the 'Growing up in County Durham' strategy. This will then go back out to the community as a draft in September, so that people can tell us if we've got it right, before the final version is published.